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$2.9 Million Grant Awarded to Covington-Based Bexion for Next Step in Cancer Fight

A Covington company's effort to find a cure for cancer just got a big dose of help in the form of a $2.9 million grant.

Bexion Pharmaceuticals, a company housed at bioLOGIC on Russell Street where former Mayor Chuck Scheper serves as board chairman, will receive the funding over the next three years from the National Cancer Institute;s small business innovation research (SBIR) "bridge award".

The funding will help Bexion take its anti-cancer drug BXQ-350 into clinical trial with humans for the first time. 

Bexion is the fourteenth company in the country to receive this level of funding, something Scheper called "pretty remarkable" in an interview with The River City News.

21,000 companies applied for funding during the first round and only 13% of those applicants were selected, said Margaret Van Gilse, Vice President of Business Development at Bexion.

Bexion was also a recipient in a second phase of funding, a 2-year award worth roughly $1 million, an amount that was matched by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Phase III winners are selected from those who received funding during the first two phases.

Getting BXQ-350 closer to commercialization will be boosted by the funds, but being recognized by such a competitive award is something those inside Bexion are proud of.

"The money is great but the affirmation is even greater," Scheper said.

Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, personally vetted Bexion during the process. "Having that validity of our own approach to cancer treatment by someone of his qualifications and stature is very important," Van Gilse said.

Phase I of a clinical trial involving humans will evaluate the use of BXQ-350 nanovesicles as a therapy for certain brain tumors. This could be the first step in developing a more targeted, less invasive treatment for an aggressive brain cancer known as Glioblastoma multiforme.

"The potential benefit to affected patients could be considerable," said Dr. Ray Takigiku, CEO and co-founder of Bexion.

News of the award was also well received in Frankfort. "My administration recognized early on the potential benefits of the research that Bexion is conducting and since 2008, Kentucky has awarded more than $1.2 million in funding to help sustain the vital and necessary development of a treatment for some of the most deadly cancers known to man," said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

Four universities are vying to host the clinical trials in humans: the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Georgia Regents, and Cleveland State.

Scheper, a cancer survivor, said that he is proud that work of this magnitude in the fight against cancer is being done by "this little company in Covington, Kentucky".

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Bexion's home at bioLOGIC/RCN file