UAF Scientist Receives an ITHS Award

May 4, 2022

Kelly Drew in her lab
Kelly Drew stands in her lab. Photo by JR Ancheta.

University of Alaska Fairbanks professor and founder of BeCool Pharmaceutics, Kelly Drew recently received a $100,000 award to develop therapeutics.

The Institute of Translational Health Sciences gives out an Early-Stage Product Development award to help turn clinical research discoveries into the development of commercial products that improve human health.

BeCool Pharmaceutics, a privately-held company that focuses on creating human therapeutics that mimic mammalian hibernation, has developed a drug compound, BCP-191. The development of BCP-191 was achieved through many years of research on hibernation in Alaskan mammals like the Arctic ground squirrel. BCP-191 induces a hibernation-like state by inhibiting the neurons in the brain that drive thermogenesis, or heat production in a human body. It turns down metabolic rate in the same way that animals suppress metabolism during the onset of hibernation.

Suppression of fever is critical in subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the space that surrounds the brain. Unlike the current standard of care for fever management that uses antipyretics, BCP-191 stops neurogenic fever, allows limited use of sedatives for shivering, and prevents seizures. As about half of subarachnoid hemorrhage cases develop neurogenic fever, which in many cases leads to death, development of BCP-191 has a potential to significantly reduce death rates caused by subarachnoid hemorrhage.

This is promising, as 400,000 people die of subarachnoid hemorrhage globally every year. Use of BCP-191 for targeted temperature treatment gives hope to improve neurological outcome and survival.

The Alaska Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship (Center ICE) director Mark Billingsley applauds Drew for the ITHS award. “[Drew] wowed expert judges with her research and technology, and she outperformed all her competitors, who came from across the Pacific Northwest U.S. To my knowledge, no pharmaceutical has ever been developed in Alaska. Dr. Drew still has a long way to go, but she is paving a new path for Alaska biomedical researchers,” he commented.

Having a 30-year background in biomedical research on hibernation and brain injury, Kelly Drew is professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Institute of Arctic Biology, and director of the Center for Transformative Research in Metabolism, which focuses on utilizing hibernation research to advance human health. As a founder of BeCool Pharmaceutics, Drew completed the National Institutes of Health’s I-Corps program, which provides funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities to help commercialize novel therapies.

Drew’s project, entitled “Pharmacodynamic and prototype refinement of BCP-191,” was supported by the National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1 TR002319.