Wednesday, April 9, 2008 | Over the course of a six-month period in 2004, Chinese-born biochemist Yong Qian endured the agony of watching his friend, Ma Jinhui, lose 132 pounds and then die from stomach cancer.
Inspired by the death of his friend, Qian left his job at a San Diego nutrition company to research and develop a cure for the ailment that killed Jinhui. Like many scientists working in San Diego’s burgeoning biotechnology sector, Qian presented his mission to dozens of friends and family members, and asked them to invest in his research. Eventually he collected $318,000 dollars from a network of 28 people that he met at church, graduate school, and through his family, to rent out his own lab and begin the heralded task of curing cancer.
Three years after Qian started his research he is beginning to see intriguing results. His company, Biomedicure, which sprouted around his devotion to cure a disease that kills more than half a million Americans per year, has developed a drug that can be injected directly into a cancerous tumor, where it then kills and cuts away dead cancer cells.
“Like a pair of bioscissors,” Qian said, “this drug has the potential to allow a doctor to remove a cancerous tumor without surgery or radiotherapy.”
Qian’s drug, which he has titled Tumorase, has been injected into tumors on the bodies of more 100 mice infected with six different types of cancer including cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, colon, and melanoma. Out of the 135 solid tumors tested, 135 were eliminated, he says.
Now Qian is gearing up for the next step in bringing his product to market: receiving his new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin testing on humans in clinical trials. But these trials cost too much money for his friends, family, and fellow churchgoers to afford.