Researcher receives grant to determine market potential of anti-cancer drug

Researcher receives grant to determine market potential of anti-cancer drug

A University of Iowa researcher who is looking to find a cancer treatment in a deep sea sponge is the first from UI to receive a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to participate in a business development program.

Zhendong Jin, founder of InnoBioPharma and associate professor of medicinal and natural products chemistry at the University of Iowa, completed the I-Corps program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I-Corps is a set of activities and programs that prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and discover the market potential for technologies developed by their basic research. I-Corps teams must conduct 100 discovery interviews over the intensive seven-week period.

Jin’s product is ZJ-101, an anti-cancer drug based on a natural compound found in a rare deep sea sponge. The drug is proven to be very active against several cancers, including triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and brain cancer, both of which are difficult to treat and have no efficacious drugs available on the market.

Last year, Jin participated in Venture School, UI’s local version of the national program. Through this course, Jin confirmed the need for his cancer drug. The next question was how best to bring this drug to market.

“It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to get a drug through FDA approval and reach the patients,” Jin says. “The next step was to learn which pharmaceutical companies would be interested in partnering, when to contact them, and who specifically to reach out to.” 


Tom Snee, Office of Strategic Communication, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell)