Meet Our Innovators
Steve Dow, DVM, PhD
Professor, Immunology | Director, Center for Immune and Regenerative Medicine Clinical Sciences
Areas of Collaborative Interest
- licensing our technologies
The two main areas of research interest are immunotherapy for cancer and ocular diseases and cell-based therapy for treating chronic infections.
Everything we do is with an eye to translational research. We do studies on animals, but we always have an eye to where the human market is. The best-case scenario is where we win at both and create a veterinary product and a human product.
“I have been involved in immunotherapy research for quite a long while. I started at National Jewish Health, formed a company, licensed the company to an animal health company and have a product on the market. Because I am a clinician at the vet school, it’s always been about getting products into the marketplace where they can help 4-legged patients or 2-legged patients. As a clinician, we always talk about vials on a shelf. There wasn’t a moment where we just said ‘hey let’s start a company.’ It has just been part of my career.
I backed into doing this research primarily during my postdoc. I happened to know some patent attorneys and we had a cool technology. It was a failed gene-therapy technology that we studied. When we understood why it failed and why the toxicity was developing, we realized it was an immunological toxicity and this gene-delivery platform was really good at activating immune responses. We realized that we could use it to treat cancer. That was really my first foray into the world of commercialization. That’s still a technology we are using today with refinements.
There’s always some pushback against commercialization. People think your motives aren’t pure and that it’s all about money and greed. That may be true for some people, but it’s not true for me. I would like tech transfer to be perceived as an equally important mission as the discovery of knowledge. Our goal is to move that knowledge and help people. The only way the knowledge is going to help people is if somebody commercializes it. I don’t think some people really get that knowledge doesn’t leap across that technology gap unless somebody is invested in it. The NIH can license some, but you are never going to have products on a shelf unless somebody commercializes it. That’s what drives us—vials on a shelf. I still have some vials from a cancer study we did 20 years ago just waiting for them to end up on a shelf somewhere.
The trial in pediatric bone cancer is what I am most proud of. Getting that drug into trials. That’s very exciting and if we get this cell therapy for the chronic infections that would be another big win.”
“Being a clinician is a huge benefit to commercialization of immunotherapy products. It makes one really flexible and able to come up with creative ideas. It gives insight that one wouldn’t have otherwise. For example, in the ocular immunotherapy treatment, it has to be something where I can understand how I would use it in the clinic. It can’t be something so complicated that I could never give it as an injection or as an oral medication. It can’t be toxic; I have to understand it’s process pretty well. It has to be dosable at a price that people can afford and that I can afford to make in the lab. A lot of our immunotherapies that we make in the lab, we understand how to make them and we understand the scalability and pricing. All those components are wrapped into what we do because we think about that as a clinician. Pricing is less of an issue on the human side, but much more in the veterinary side especially in the agriculture sector. Pricing is everything for them. Obviously, it has to work, but the number one question we get from the farms is ‘What does a dose cost?’ On the human side, they care if it works, if it’s safe, and if they can produce it and protect it. These are different discussions, but they all start from the same point of “is it practical?”
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*Assignee other than Colorado State University Research Foundation