Harnessing the Power of Academic Medicine

The UCSD School of Medicine is one of the nation’s top-ranked academic institutions devoted to medical research, education, and health care services. The school is notable for outstanding faculty and students, research, and its strengths in academic medicine.

Professor C. Lowell Parsons, M.D., is an outstanding example of the power of academic medicine. His understanding of a certain disease led him to search for a solution to develop a new clinical product. Since 1977, Dr. Parsons has been a faculty member in the surgery/urology department at the UCSD School of Medicine. He is an internationally recognized specialist in interstitial cystitis (IC), which is also known as Lower Urinary Dysfunctional Epithelium (LUDE). IC is a long-term, yet treatable, inflammatory medical condition of the bladder. As many as 9 million women and 6 million men in the U.S. suffer from pain in the pelvic area that lasts longer than 6 months. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Parsons has been an active clinician, treating more than 6000 women and men who have IC/LUDE at his clinic at UCSD.

Dr. Parsons realized that mucus regulates the permeability of the bladder wall and that this mucus becomes defective in people with IC. This defect also allows the urinary potassium to leak from the mucus into bladder wall thereby causing tissue injury and the symptoms of IC. Harnessing this knowledge, Dr. Parsons developed novel treatments for IC with his studies that led to the discovery of the drug, Elmiron® (pentosan polysulfate sodium). This innovation, licensed to a US pharmaceutical company, was issued US Patent No. 5,180,715 – Irrigation of internal bladder surfaces in mammals with sodium pentosanpolysulfate. Elmiron® is thought to act by creating an artificial mucus layer in the bladder. In Dr. Parsons’ experience with over 6000 IC patients, Elmiron® helps most of them.

In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Parsons conducts ongoing research into the causes of IC as well as in the development of new therapies for this condition and has developed the first new test for IC in 70 years, the Potassium Sensitivity Test (PST). The PST has been reproduced and validated by many medical centers around the world and Parsons has received numerous federal and private grants for his research studies.

Sharing his knowledge and experience with the scientific and medical communities, Dr. Parsons has published over 200 scientific articles and book chapters, including over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts on IC. In addition, he travels widely to train physicians and other health professionals in how to recognize and treat IC/LUDE.

In 2004, Dr. Parsons was recognized as “UCSD Outstanding Innovator” with an award from UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox at the TechTIPS’ 10th Anniversary celebration event. Even with his prior success, Dr. Parsons, a Yale University School of Medicine graduate, continues to work on new treatments developing a new therapeutic solution (derived from his clinical and basic research) that can be instilled into the bladder several times a week to reduce and suppress symptoms. The solution, which contains an anesthetic, can provide immediate relief of symptoms and may be used as part of an overall IC treatment plan that includes Elmiron®. His most recent innovation is the founding technology of a new company, Urigen. Dr. Parsons is working with Urigen to commercialize this novel treatment for pelvic pain of bladder origin. Urigen recently obtained FDA approval to conduct a clinical trial with this product and a multicenter, randomized trial began December 2005.

ELMIRON® is a Registered Trademark of IVAX RESEARCH, INC. under license to ORTHO-McNEIL PHARMACEUTICAL, INC.