FDA grants 'orphan drug' status for UNMC therapy

by Charlie Litton, UNeMed | July 10, 2017

Image with caption: Tammy Kielian, Ph.D.

Tammy Kielian, Ph.D.

The FDA announced recently that it has granted Abeona Therapeutics Inc. the "Orphan Drug" designation for its work on a gene therapy approach to juvenile Batten disease, according to an Abeona press release issued last week.

Abeona is a biopharmaceutical company focused on gene therapy approaches for rare deadly diseases. Abeona's work with juvenile Batten disease is based on the research of Tammy Kielian, Ph.D., one of UNMC's most celebrated and talented researchers.

"This designation helps advance the [juvenile Batten disease gene therapy] program and we look forward to initiating human clinical trials later this year," Abeona President and CEO Timothy Miller, Ph.D., said in the release.

Dr. Kielian was the 2016 Scientist Laureate, UNMC's highest honor bestowed on researchers, and was named the 2015 Innovator of the Year by UNMC's technology transfer and commercialization office, UNeMed.

Dr. Kielian directed her research toward juvenile Batten disease several years ago when her young niece was diagnosed with the fatal neurodegenerative disorder.

According to Abeona's press release, the "Orphan drug designation is granted by the FDA to novel drugs or biologics that treat rare diseases or conditions affecting fewer than 200,000 patients in the U.S. The designation allows the drug developer to be eligible for a seven-year period of U.S. marketing exclusivity upon approval of the drug, as well as tax credits for clinical research costs, the ability to apply for annual grant funding, clinical trial design assistance, and the waiver of Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) filing fees."

Dr. Kielian, who is a professor of pathology/microbiology, also was named a UNMC Distinguished Scientist in 2009 and won UNeMed's Emerging Inventor Award in 2012.

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Nicholas Heimann
July 11, 2017 at 2:58 PM

Keep up the good work!

Melanie Schrack
July 10, 2017 at 7:42 PM

Congratulations! What wonderful news!

Jonathan L. Vennerstrom
July 10, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Outstanding news! Congratulations Tammy!

Kristi Brummels
July 10, 2017 at 8:18 AM

Very impressive! Congratulations!