Vanquish Oncology

Through cross-campus and interdisciplinary collaboration among research faculty and staff, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago are revolutionizing cancer research and drug discovery faster than ever before.

Vanquish Oncology Inc. is a drug startup company that develops personalized therapeutics for unmet or underserved cancer markets, or cancer with a poor survival rate. Dr. Paul J. Hergenrother, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, co-founded the company based on a decade of research.

Vanquish Oncology’s cutting-edge drug, PAC-1, is uniquely capable of reducing tumor volume, and penetrates the blood-brain barrier—thus having the potential to treat primary brain tumors and cancers that metastasize to the brain from other sites.

Dr. Hergenrother worked with OTM during the discovery stage to evaluate and license the new technology, receiving proof-of-concept funding. IllinoisVENTURES provided the initial seed funding, which allowed Hergenrother and his team to start the company. It also catalyzed a $4 million angel investment. “The IllinoisVENTURES investment was critical to our company formation,” Hergenrother says. “Many investors are hesitant to be the first to invest, but no one wants to be the last, either.”

Hergenrother says his research wouldn’t have moved out of the lab so quickly if he didn’t have the company as a vehicle to transfer the benefits of the technology back to society. “The cancer drug’s development has progressed remarkably thanks to having a formal enterprise in place. Without the company, we couldn’t have opened a clinical trial so quickly.”