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NMSU Regents professor, biomedical researcher named 2023 IP Award recipient

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A New Mexico State University Regents professor and biomedical researcher named by Stanford University as among the top 2 percent of scientists worldwide is the recipient of the 2023 Intellectual Property Award presented by NMSU’s Arrowhead Center and the Office of Research, Creativity and Strategic Initiatives.

The award was presented during a ceremony Wednesday, April 26, at Arrowhead Center, and recognizes NMSU faculty or staff who have developed intellectual property and demonstrated work to realize societal, industrial and commercial benefits.

Jeffrey Arterburn is a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and is a co-owner of seven patents of research tools and therapeutics related to treatments of diseases including cancer. One patent was the result of research collaborations by Arterburn, Eric Prossnitz from the University of New Mexico and colleagues at the UNM Cancer Center.

The patent covers the synthetic molecules that selectively target the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor, and has resulted in licensing and advancement of a new investigational drug through Phase II clinical trials, which show great progress for the treatment of melanoma in combination with an immunotherapy. The discovery was brought to market by Linnaeus Therapeutics to treat cancers including melanoma, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, non-small cell lung cancer and colon carcinomas.

“The primary goal of academic research in my field is to make discoveries and achieve new insights that impact the field and advance scientific understanding, and all scientists hope that our publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals will be widely read and impactful,” Arterburn said. “I am particularly proud that my students and I have been able to do impactful science at a relatively small, land-grant institution where we have not had the resources or opportunities that are available at many larger schools and medical research centers.”

Arterburn said he decided to pursue patents with his research colleagues due to the costs of biomedical research, which increase tremendously as one advances from basic research focusing on discovery through the stringent tests for new investigational drugs in FDA-regulated clinical trials.

“It is essential to protect the associated intellectual property to enable further commercialization as an approved drug,” he said. “Having limited awareness of examples of other academic research leading to new drugs, I recognized that my research program had potential to create new research tools and therapeutics that could address unmet health needs, and therefore began to consider opportunities as they arose. My first attempt at pursuing a patent was ultimately abandoned but it was an important learning experience and set the stage for later success.”

Arterburn studied chemistry at the University of Colorado and completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Arizona. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, and the University of Washington in Seattle with funding from an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.

“My motivation for biomedical research originates from the recognition that there are many devastating diseases that are understudied and lack effective drugs for treatment, and the desire to use my skills to design and build new small-molecule probes and drugs that selectively target key biological molecules and help us to understand and ultimately control their function,” he said.

Wednesday’s award presentation coincided with World Intellectual Property Day, which is celebrated annually April 26 to highlight the role of intellectual property rights in encouraging rights and creativity. The Intellectual Property Office at Arrowhead Center assists NMSU faculty in obtaining patents to protect their innovative discoveries.

“Patenting key research findings can offer significant benefits for researchers and can offer added control over the uses made of corresponding outcomes,” said Patricia Marquez Knighten, director of Innovation Commercialization at Arrowhead Center. “The World Intellectual Property Organization noted that patenting university intellectual property allows universities to license their findings to companies in the commercial realm and may lead to cutting-edge products and services to consumers. This can allow the widest possible application of research where it can do the most good, increase innovation and generate funds for additional or further research, while contributing to economic growth and development.”

“Arrowhead’s growing portfolio of programs and services support, train and develop inventors and entrepreneurs for commercialization of their inventions,” said Kathy Hansen, director and CEO of Arrowhead Center. “We are strong partners to the researchers inside of NMSU and we can work with them to identify and strengthen partnerships and collaborations outside the university.”

NMSU Vice President for Research, Creativity and Strategic Initiatives Luis Cifuentes called Arterburn an “excellent researcher, inspiring teacher and mentor, global collaborator, and campus leader in research translation. Dr. Arterburn is most deserving of this award.”

NMSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli said Arterburn exemplifies academic excellence.

“He is a committed teacher and mentor. He is a truly accomplished researcher. He serves as a role model of how to combine foundational research with translational efforts and real-world impacts. His collaborative research style contributes to promoting the research visibility of all NMSU life science programs,” Pontelli said.

Knighten said Arterburn’s contributions to innovation and research should especially be noted because of his record of collaborating with others both on campus and globally.

“Collaboration and commercialization are where he takes the extra mile and it is truly exemplary of what we hope other NMSU inventors are motivated to do in the future,” Knighten said.