Investors are needed to take SFA cancer treatment patent to next level

Dr. Shiyou Li, research professor and director of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Crops at SFA, seeks value in plants. (Source: KTRE Staff).
Dr. Shiyou Li, research professor and director of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Crops at SFA, seeks value in plants. (Source: KTRE Staff).
The invasive Giant Salvinia has led to 74 chemical compounds. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The invasive Giant Salvinia has led to 74 chemical compounds. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Tiny particles of isolated salvinia has the potential of saving lives. First animal and human clinical trials must be conducted. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Tiny particles of isolated salvinia has the potential of saving lives. First animal and human clinical trials must be conducted. (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Research at Stephen F. Austin State University has led to a U.S. patent for an anti-cancer compound.

It's one of 74 chemical compounds discovered from Giant Salvinia, that troublesome weed that clogs boat motors and takes over lakes.

With science comes the need for investors, an element outside the lab's walls.

The research team at SFA's National Center for Pharmaceutical Crops invented Salvinol, an isolated compound of giant Salvinia. Tiny particles have proven to inhibit the growth of a wide range of cancer cells, including pancreatic and lung cancer cells.

Understandably, Dr. Shiyou Li, the director of the cancer center, is ready to take the discovery to the next level.

"We would really like to do further testing for animal and human clinical trials," Li said.

"When funding is available" is the phrase to highlight.

MD Anderson, outside universities, and pharmaceutical companies are approaching SFA with interest. Who holds the bargaining chip?

"It's hard to tell. We hold the technology," Li said. "They hold the money."

Li is spending his winter break with potential investors. Funding sustains continued research. In the last 25 years, Li's team has filed 13 patents. They learned along the way ...

"Lawyers are not cheap," Li said. "So we pay the external lawyers the majority of the cost."

The value of legal teams isn't debated. Dr. Hans Williams, the dean of SFA's Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, knows protecting intellectual property "does take money and it does take time, so it's a never-ending effort to try to find resources."

Animal and human clinical trials of Salvinol could take well over a decade.

Li's virtue is patience, so he may well see the value of a misunderstood plant reach the ultimate level - saving lives.

Individuals to corporations can become investors in SFA's research. Other promising discoveries are happening in the SFA lab. Click here to read a previous story about their efforts.

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