Dr. Cherie-Ann Nathan
Dr. Cherie-Ann Nathan will use the funds to help produce a potentially cancer-preventing gum that harnesses the natural powers of curcumin, a substance found in the Indian spice turmeric.
A new program is helping LSU researchers across the state move their inventions to market, and Dr. Cherie-Ann Nathan, Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery at the School of Medicine in Shreveport, is among the first of its grant recipients.
Nathan is receiving the maximum amount possible, $50,000, from the LSU System’s Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer (LIFT2) Program. She will use the funds to help produce a potentially cancer-preventing gum that harnesses the natural powers of curcumin, a substance found in the Indian spice turmeric.
Curcumin has long been a subject of Nathan’s research. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, her lab investigates curcumin’s possible role in preventing the progression of head and neck cancers. Promising results have led to the first head and neck cancer trial with curcumin.
One roadblock in her effort to apply the research to human health is that the stomach, the traditional way oral medicine enters the body, does not absorb curcumin well. Dr. Nathan hypothesized that gum may be a more effective delivery system because it allows for direct mucosal absorption of curcumin, bypassing the stomach. Her idea is to create a chewing gum that slowly releases curcumin to treat upper aerodigestive diseases and head and neck problems. The funds from LIFT2 will allow Nathan to contract with a medicinal chemist to perfect the curcumin gum.
“This is an exciting project with great potential to prevent head and neck cancers based on our bench research involving a number of collaborators, especially fellow faculty members Drs. Kenneth McMartin and Dr. Tammy Dugas, and support from the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center,” Nathan said, “Our lab is thrilled to be one of the inaugural awardees of the LIFT2 grant.”
Nathan is a leading member of Feist-Weiller Cancer Center’s translational cancer care team. Her research involving curcumin received a $40,000 in-house Idea Grant that resulted in a $342,410 National Cancer Institute grant. This is the foundation for the current cancer-preventing gum project.
Dr. Nathan is one of 15 grant recipients, totaling $500,000, from the LSU LIFT2 Grant Program.
“We are pleased to award the first ever LIFT2 fund grants at LSU,” said LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander. “The results of the pilot phase of the program indicate a tremendous interest in the program and show that there was a need for such proof of concept funding to support innovation and commercialization. This program will help to see many of these projects advance from basic research to market.”
The LSU LIFT2 program was created by the LSU Board of Supervisors in January to help “Leverage Innovation for Technology Transfer” across all the campuses of the LSU system. “Innovations” include creative and artistic works as well as devices, drugs, software and other more traditional inventions; thus, personnel from all disciplines on all LSU campuses are strongly encouraged to consider an application to further develop an invention which has been previously disclosed to their campus technology transfer office.
“The LSU Board of Supervisors is pleased to see so many researchers participate in the request for proposal process for the initial LIFT2 grants,” said LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert “Bobby” Yarborough. “Every day we see the impact that LSU research is having on our state in addressing a number of areas like healthcare, the coast, workforce development, energy, agriculture and more. These initial grants are the first of many from this program, and we encourage more researchers to apply in the future.”
The grants have been awarded after being scored by an external review panel on criteria related to primarily technical merit and commercial potential. Results of the research from these first grants are expected within 12 months.
The LSU LIFT2 Fund provides support to help transfer LSU technologies and innovations to the market – support difficult to come by through traditional means. Providing a bridge over the critical gap between basic research and commercialization, the LSU LIFT2 Fund awards grants to faculty on a competitive basis twice a year, in amounts up to $50,000, to validate the market potential of their inventions.