January 7, 2019

UConn Health tests its own biotech breakthroughs

Photo | HBJ File
Photo | HBJ File
Dr. Pramod Srivastava leads cancer clinical trials at UConn Health.

UConn Health is one of the country's smallest academic medical centers, with just 30 beds for cancer patients.

Despite that, UConn has done four phase 1 cancer trials over the past 20 years, all without a dedicated drug trials unit, like the one Hartford HealthCare just built.

Dr. Pramod Srivastava, medical director of UConn Health's clinical trials program, said the needs of individual hospitals can vary greatly.

Higher patient numbers and aspirations for greater trials may make a dedicated unit necessary, he said.

UConn's strategy has been to do early phase trials that test its own biotech inventions and intellectual property, rather than take on an array of commercial arrangements.

One such example is Srivastava's own invention — a cancer vaccine called Oncophage — which was approved for use in Russia a decade ago.

"That made me very happy because the trial began at UConn and then went on to 125 hospitals worldwide," Srivastava said recently.

He's hoping UConn can work more closely on early stage clinical trials with its peer hospitals in the region.

Srivastava is custodian of $2.5 million in Bioscience Connecticut funds, first made available in 2015. UConn Health has used $1.7 million of that funding to support phase 1 trials led by Srivastava. About $200,000 went to Hartford Hospital for its dedicated phase 1 cancer trials unit. Some funds remain and are available to other area hospitals for any phase 1 drug trial efforts they choose to undertake, according to UConn.

"I want to meet with these hospitals once a week and go over what they're doing," Srivastava said. "There's no reason why we couldn't open a trial at Hartford Hospital in the future."

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Hartford HealthCare bringing early stage clinical trials to region

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