N.C. A&T Professor Awarded Inaugural SoBran/NCBiotech Research Contest Grand Prize

Dr. Shengmin Sang, lead scientist in the Center of Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, won the grand prize of the inaugural SoBran/NCBiotech Innovation for Impact Contest for his research on a novel double “prodrug” that decreases aspirin toxicity in the gastrointestinal tract and increases is efficacy.

The patented medication may also be helpful in treating and/or preventing colon cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

An associate professor in N.C. A&T’s nationally recognized College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Sang was chosen from a highly competitive pool of 17 research scientists from institutions around the state. The prize included support for a research study of up to $10,000, as well as a cash prize of $1,000.

Co-sponsored by SoBran Bioscience and the Piedmont Triad Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the Innovation for Impact prize was established to celebrate the transformational science coming out of North Carolina. Researchers at universities and emerging companies in North Carolina were invited to answer, “How will your research heal, fuel or feed the world in the future?”

Sang’s research and patented compounds could be a boon for patients who require the benefits of aspirin but suffer from accompanying stomach irritation. Tests on colon cancer cell lines showed that Sang’s novel compounds, containing both aspirin and bioactive phytochemicals, were more effective at inducing cancer cell death than any of the individual components used alone or physically mixed.

“This is a great reward and recognition of my research,” said Sang. “The award will support me in conducting a pilot pharmacokinetic or toxicity study of our compound, which will help us to select the right dose range for future efficacy study. Our compounds will be the new generation of aspirin with no or low gastrointestinal toxicities.”

Sang recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement for his patented aspirin-derived compounds with SARISA Therapeutics, an Invenshure Company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“It was an honor to review all of the extraordinary submissions from university researchers and emerging companies in North Carolina,” said Gregory Kelly, vice president at SoBran. “The robust pool of contenders is a testament to the strong life sciences research community that has been fostered here in North Carolina.”

Representatives from SoBran BioScience and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center were contest judges. In addition to Sang, A&T professors Hye Won Kang (CAES) and Perpetua Muganda (College of Science and Technology) were also recognized as two of four contest finalists, each receiving a $500 cash prize.

SoBran BioScience supports preclinical research and drug discovery for government agencies, academic institutions and biotechnology companies.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit, connecting companies and university researchers within biotech sectors.