Psoriasis Treatments with Next Generation Vitamin D Analogs

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing novel compounds for the treatment of psoriasis.


According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis, an incurable and painful skin disorder in which affected individuals develop thick, scaly areas on their skin. This disease ranges from minor localized patches on the skin to debilitating full body coverage.

Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that cause skin cells to grow too fast. Many treatments, including topical products, systemic medications and phototherapy, are available to control the symptoms of psoriasis, but these treatments may cause adverse side effects or may not be effective in many individuals.

Analogs of the hormonally active form of vitamin D, known as calcitriol or 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, have been recognized for years as a promising focus for the development of psoriasis therapies. Calcitriol encourages skin cells to stop proliferating and start differentiating, reducing their growth rate to near normal levels. In addition, calcitriol acts on the immune system to reduce itching and inflammation.

While promising for the treatment of mild cases, the concentrations of calcitriol required for effective treatment of severe psoriasis can be toxic. The hormone mobilizes calcium from bones and increases intestinal absorption of dietary calcium. Effective therapeutic concentrations can lead to hypercalcemia; a condition characterized by elevated blood calcium levels, alterations in mental status, muscle weakness and calcification of soft tissues and organs such as the heart and kidneys. Therefore, a need exists for non-calcemic compounds that provide desirable therapeutic effects without causing dose-limiting hypercalcemia.

A Novel Treatment: Non-calcemic analogs of calcitriol

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are designing non-calcemic analogs of calcitriol. These analogs may provide the solution to the dose limitations of calcitriol by offering a wider dose range and lower potential for causing hypercalcemia and its complications. They show significant ability to slow the growth of skin cells at concentrations that do not cause bone calcium mobilization, intestinal calcium transport or increase blood calcium to dangerous levels.

WARF maintains a robust and growing portfolio of low and non-calcemic analogs of calcitriol. Intellectual property rights and special development incentives for commercialization in the psoriasis space are currently available.

Business Opportunity

  • Through 2006, the prevalence of psoriasis was estimated to be 17 million people worldwide.
  • Datamonitor reports $1.95 billion in sales of psoriasis treatments in 2005.
  • By 2015 the market for psoriasis treatments will exceed $2.3 billion in the U.S., $832 million in the E.U. and $354 million in Japan.
  • An increasing demand exists for safer therapeutics that control symptoms with greater efficacy, longer duration and improved quality of life.
  • Providers view vitamin D analog treatments as first line options versus steroids due to safety concerns and also over biologic treatments as payers carefully scrutinize risk-benefit and cost-benefit ratios.
  • Next generation vitamin D treatments are needed to replace older products with narrow therapeutic indexes.


  • Mild psoriasis
  • Severe psoriasis

Key Benefits

  • A proven biologically active compound that slows the growth of skin cells with minimal potential for raising calcium levels.
  • May enable less frequent dosing and increase in size of treatment areas.
  • Early preclinical screening studies completed; later stage preclinical and clinical GLP evaluations may be available.
  • Offers a fresh therapeutic approach for gaining access to the growing psoriasis and skin therapy market.
  • Innovative licensing and/or development terms available.

Stage of Development

The analogs offered in this portfolio have been subjected to in vitro/in vivo models for evaluations of receptor binding, cell proliferation, cellular differentiation, calcium mobilization and blood calcium levels. In some cases, Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)-rated preclinical and clinical data may be available for evaluation.

Please contact our office for updates as study data sets may be evolving with compounds under development.

Additional Information

For more information about the inventor, see Hector DeLuca.

Contact Information

Please contact our licensing team at or 608.960.9850 to explore and discuss innovative development pathways that are available to qualified development interests.