UA Startup Catalina Pharma Offers New Method to Treat Anesthesia-Induced Hypothermia

Tucson, Ariz. – Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson and Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center – Phoenix have come up with a new method for treating the decrease in body temperature that occurs under anesthesia during surgery (anesthesia-induced hypothermia). The team, which includes anesthesiologist Amol Patwardhan, M.D., Ph.D., working with Frank Porreca, Ph.D., of the University of Arizona, and Andrej Romanovsky, M.D., Ph.D. at St. Joseph’s, have been investigating the utility of TRPV-1 antagonists to address this condition.


The team and their business lead William Schmidt, Ph.D., an experienced pharmacologist and entrepreneur, worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the Office of the University of Arizona that commercializes inventions stemming from University research, to protect the intellectual property and license it to their startup, Catalina Pharma.


According to Dr. Patwardhan, “At present there is no pharmaceutical treatment for this very important clinical need that is currently managed only with physical methods that are often insufficient and problematic to both patients and clinical staff”. 


Through his work in his laboratory, Dr. Romanovsky showed that certain TRPV1 antagonists cause hyperthermia – a severe side effect characterized by a marked rise in body temperature (fever). He says that “the ability to repurpose a compound originally sidelined from clinical development due to the hyperthermia side-effect as a new therapy is extremely exciting.”


According to Dr. Porreca, the TRPV-1 antagonists were originally proposed to target pain, but failed to pass clinical trials because of this adverse side effect. As a practicing anesthesiologist, Dr. Patwardhan understood that anesthesia and surgery commonly cause a drop in body temperature.  

Through their collaborative work and pooling of ideas and knowledge, the team came to the realization that the TRPV-1 antagonist molecules represented a promising solution for the problem. The team has generated robust data to demonstrate that several TRPV-1 antagonists can reverse anesthesia-induced hypothermia in rodent models.


Dr. Porreca points out that “this is an outstanding example of how basic science discoveries can help to solve an important clinical problem that occurs in operating rooms every single day. This was only possible because of close interactions and discussions between scientists and clinicians to address real-world problems that affect the lives of patients. This new therapy could improve surgical outcomes, and speed recovery.”

An additional benefit, says Dr. Porreca, is that “the use of these drugs in the peri-operative setting could increase safety and diminish post-surgical pain requiring less opioid use, further improving outcomes in patients.”


Now that the company has the license for the technology, they plan to in-license a TRPV-1 antagonist to enter into clinical trials to test it as a treatment for anesthesia-induced hypothermia.


Alternative current methods to address this form of hypothermia include wrapping patients in warm blankets and/or raising room temperatures. However, warm blankets are not safe nor preferred to use over open wounds, and surgeons tend to prefer cooler temperatures in operating rooms. Hypothermia during surgery leads to cardiovascular stress and increased overall morbidity and mortality associated with surgery. In addition, low body temperature in patients post-surgery can slow wound healing and increase chances of infection.


According to Lisa Lin, Tech Launch Arizona licensing manager for the UA College of Medicine-Tucson, “Early studies are promising and this could be a new way to treat anesthesia-induced hypothermia. We look forward to the future growth and success of the company.”


Surgical hypothermia affects nearly 3.5 million patients every year in the USA. Potential adverse consequences include increased bleeding, wound infection, and risk of heart attack. At present, there are no existing pharmacological treatments for surgical hypothermia.


“We are extremely pleased to partner with Tech Launch Arizona and Dignity Health and to be the exclusive licensee for this technology,” says Dr. William Schmidt, president of Catalina Pharma. “With an experienced team of physicians and scientists, we are eager to address this problem by taking failed clinical-stage TRPV1 antagonists back into clinical evaluation for prevention of surgical hypothermia. This could be a major breakthrough that could save lives.”


About Tech Launch Arizona

Tech Launch Arizona creates social and economic impact through bringing the inventions stemming from University of Arizona research from the lab to the world. In pursuit of that mission, we build strategic connections between the talents of our faculty and researchers and the experience of entrepreneurs and investors. We cultivate these conversations, fostering ideas that start in the lab, and grow them into new products and thriving businesses that benefit society. Connect with us at and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


About Dignity Health

Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care systems, is a 22-state network of more than 9,000 physicians, 62,000 employees, and 400 care centers, including hospitals, urgent and occupational care, imaging centers, home health, and primary care clinics. Headquartered in San Francisco, Dignity Health is dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care with special attention to the poor and underserved. In FY16, Dignity Health provided $2.2 billion in charitable care and services. For more information, please visit our website at You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.



Paul Tumarkin, MA

Sr. Manager, Marketing & Communications

Tech Launch Arizona

Connect: | Fast Forward Newsletter | @TechLaunchAZ

Posted in AZBio News.