Guy Reed, MD, began more than a decade ago to research a safer, more effective therapy for dissolving blood clots, which are the cause of most strokes. The outcome of that research is a novel thrombus (blood clot) dissolving agent, TS23, which is currently undergoing clinical trials.
For his groundbreaking effort, Dr. Reed, the Lemuel Diggs Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UT Health Science Center, was named one of four recipients of the 2016 Innovation Awards given by Inside Memphis Business magazine. The awards are bestowed annually to recognize the best in creative efforts that improve our community and beyond.
Dr. Reed’s work, particularly significant to the Mid-South as it sits in the center of the “Stroke Belt,” has gained international recognition. In September 2015, the research company Dr. Reed founded to translate his science into therapy — Translational Sciences, Inc. — signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Daiichi Sankyo Company, Ltd., headquartered in Tokyo, to develop and commercialize TS23.
“Some of the international press was a little bit stunned when they said that one of the largest companies in the world from one of the largest cities in the world came to Memphis for its next innovation,” Dr. Reed said in accepting the award during a breakfast at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis. “But as you all have heard today, Memphis is a source of tremendous innovation, and we’re just proud to be part of it.”
Dr. Reed’s research team joined him at the event, which was also sponsored by the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics and Waddell & Associates, LLC. Other winners are Bridges, the nonprofit focused on developing young people as leaders; Sweet Bio, which has developed a membrane made of medical-grade honey to fill gaps left by tooth extraction and allow for healing; and Code Crew, which teaches young people computer coding skills.
In accepting the award, Dr. Reed praised UTHSC for providing an environment conducive to research, discovery and translational science.
He was nominated by UTHSC because he identified a major health problem, diligently researched a potential solution, raised more than $7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to translate that research into a possible therapy, tested it in early clinical studies, and secured a major international pharmaceutical company to develop it for patient benefit.
Dr. Reed traces his quest to find a better way to treat stroke and blood clots back to his days in training.
“I was deeply affected by a patient with a stroke, who progressively deteriorated and died because there wasn’t anything we could do to help him,” said Dr. Reed, a cardiologist. “I just realized we didn’t understand ischemic stroke, we didn’t understand what caused it and why it progressed. We didn’t have a treatment safe enough to use on the majority of patients. The therapies we had were too risky and had their own problems. We needed a way to improve care.”
The original research that led to TS23 was designed to identify what regulates clot dissolution in the body, Dr. Reed said. The research team identified a candidate molecule, and then made an antibody that inhibited that molecule. The blood clots dissolved.
They sought to determine whether this might be useful in humans with thrombotic diseases, such as stroke, by studying it in experimental models. “Although there are other approaches to stroke treatment being explored, this is the only research targeting this molecule in the country,” said Dr. Reed, who is CSO-CEO of Translational Sciences.
Currently, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only proven treatment for dissolving blood clots. This enzyme is effective for the right patients, but must be given within a certain window of time from onset of symptoms and can cause major bleeding. “The longer a patient has stroke symptoms, the more the benefits of tPA decline and its harmful effects increase, so it’s a competing risk-benefit ratio,” Dr. Reed said.
“TPA ends up being used in only five percent or less of the patients who have ischemic stroke,” Dr. Reed noted. “So the challenge has been to discover a safe treatment that doesn’t cause side effects, like bleeding, that lead to disability or death.”
TS23 appears to have great potential to help millions of patients each year who suffer from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Dr. Reed attended Stanford University, and received an MS in mathematical studies and an MD from the School of Medicine. He did his residency in internal medicine at Yale University, a cardiovascular disease fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a post-doctoral Research Fellowship in biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Reed joined the Cardiology Division at Massachusetts General Hospital. He then joined the faculty of the Harvard Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory in the department of Genetics and Complex Disease, and became associate professor of Immunology. He was recruited as a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and the Kupperman Professor and Chief of Cardiology.
In 2008, he was named the Lemuel Diggs Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UTHSC. He is a Fellow of the American Heart Association, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association and a winner of the American College of Cardiology Young Investigator Award.
On top of his research, Dr. Reed continues to be a dedicated clinical teacher in the UTHSC College of Medicine, helping to train future generations of physicians. He said he sees research as a responsibility of any health science university in the battle against disease.
“As an academic health center, our primary mission is to educate the next generation of physicians about the best current knowledge of disease and health, as well as the best evidence-based approaches to diagnosis treatment and prevention,” he said. “But we also have an obligation to advance the field, so that we can discover better therapies and prevention strategies, so that a decade from now, we’re treating patients with safer and more effective therapies than we are currently using.”