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


Acne, a chronic inflammatory disease, is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting approximately 85 percent of teenagers and 20 percent of adults. Acne occurs when pores in the skin are clogged by sebum, an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands. It is characterized by the presence of pimples or "zits" on the face, neck, chest, back and/or upper arms.

Although acne is not caused by bacteria, bacteria can make acne worse. The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is normally present on skin, feeds on sebum. When a pore is clogged with sebum, P. acnes bacteria can grow and produce chemicals that irritate and inflame the skin. The inflamed blemishes often result in scarring.

Vitamin D was first proposed as a treatment for acne in 1938 by Dr. Merlin Maynard, who found it to be a satisfactory therapy for more than 75 percent of his patients. Analogs of the hormonally active form of vitamin D, known as calcitriol or 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, act on the immune system to reduce inflammation. In addition, calcitriol supports the production of antimicrobial peptides in the skin and may help provide an effective defense against the bacteria that can lead to severe acne.

While promising, the concentrations of calcitriol required for effective treatment of acne 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 reduce inflammation 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 for commercialization in the acne space are currently available.

Business Opportunity

  • 60 million Americans have active acne, and one quarter of those individuals have acne severe enough to cause scars.


  • Prevention or treatment of acne.

Key Benefits

  • Offers a fresh therapeutic approach for gaining access to the skin care market.
  • Provides a drug development opportunity in a growing market space.
  • Strong intellectual property rights and development incentives are available.

Stage of Development

Many of the analogs offered in this portfolio have been subjected to in vitro/in vivo models for evaluations of receptor binding, cell proliferation, cellular differentiation and bone and intestinal calcium mobilization. In some cases, Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)-rated preclinical and clinical data also 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.