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Challenge Seeks Exosome Drug Delivery Technologies

Exosome illustration

Exosome illustration (NIH.gov)

23 January 2015. A new challenge on InnoCentive is asking for systematic techniques for using exosomes, tiny components that cells secrete for specialized functions, as vehicles to deliver drugs. The challenge has a purse of $30,000 and a submission deadline of 17 February 2015.

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. The sponsor, in this case, is not disclosed. Innocentive calls this type of competition a theoretical challenge that requires a written proposal. Free registration is required to see details of the competition.

Exosomes are vesicles, tiny — 40 to 150 nanometer — lipid-membrane containers in cells that gather up and secrete cytoplasm, the gel-like material outside the cell nucleus. While originally believed to carry out waste removal and other maintenance tasks, exosomes were shown in recent years to perform useful delivery functions carrying proteins and genetic material to other cells, and drawing increased attention from a range of biological disciplines.

As more of these delivery functions were revealed, researchers focused initially on opportunities provided by exosomes as biomarkers for diagnosing disease. More recently, researchers are investigating exosomes’ therapeutic potential, such as delivering antigens to trigger immune reactions from T-cells. A number of clinical trials are currently testing exosome therapies with humans, mainly for cancer.

The InnoCentive challenge is seeking a systematic approach for harnessing exosomes for therapeutic delivery. The challenge’s sponsor is requesting “a highly efficient and broadly applicable methodology for loading exosomes with the therapeutic agent,” which is not yet available. Through the challenge, the sponsor hopes to attract “one or more technologies that will facilitate exosome drug loading without significant disruption of the membrane components and properties of the exosome.”

Participants in the challenge should submit a written proposal, which will be reviewed by the sponsor, with specific prize amounts dependent on the sponsor’s evaluation. Winning entries will be required to transfer exclusive intellectual property rights to the sponsor in order to qualify for prizes.

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