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Deltanoid and Beyond: Madison Legend DeLuca Has More “D” To Play

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of bringing a new osteoporosis drug to market with its partner Pfizer. But in the wake of the 2009 Pfizer-Wyeth megamerger, Pfizer ended research in several areas, including bone health. “They abandoned that group, and we were one of the casualties,” DeLuca says.

Tiny Deltanoid instead wants to promote that same drug, DP001, for secondary hyperparathyroidism in patients on kidney dialysis. It’s a condition that DeLuca’s work has addressed before: Hectorol and Zemplar, for example. But he says Deltanoid has refined the Vitamin D analog, and it’s now a lower-dose option because it targets the thyroid more precisely and spares the intestine and bone. That could mean a lower cost of goods to make the product as well as a drug that doesn’t have the side effect of hypercalcemia, or dangerously raised levels of calcium, associated with Zemplar and other such treatments. (Those dangers are higher in the U.S. than other countries because our diets are already high in calcium, DeLuca says.)

The company just announced Phase 2b results from a 62-patient trial, and DeLuca presented the data at a medical meeting last week. The goal is to find a big partner to take the program into larger Phase 3 trials. “We believe it’s attractive enough that a company with resources can partner with us or finish the job,” DeLuca says. “We don’t want to raise funds to do it, but if that’s the only choice, we will.”

Ideally, however, DeLuca will hand DP001 to a bigger drug company and free up more time to pursue the ultraviolet light research. Pointing the way toward a new treatment for multiple sclerosis would be quite an achievement, one probably worth an honor or two—but it would have to be something other than his name above the entrance of the campus research complex where he still works.

That’s already been done. Last year, the school decided to dedicate its biosciences buildings to DeLuca, a rare honor in any setting, rarer still for someone not just alive but with no plans to retire anytime soon.

 

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