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Start-Up Developing Nanomedicines for Transplants

Ann-Marie Broome and Satish Nadig

Ann-Marie Broome, left, and Satish Nadig, two of the founders of ToleRam Nanotech (Sarah Pack, Medical University of South Carolina)

24 June 2016. A spin-off enterprise from Medical University of South Carolina is creating drug delivery techniques that make it safer for patients needing organ transplants. The company, ToleRam Nanotech LLC in Charleston, was recognized for one of the top new innovative technologies at last month’s TechConnect World Innovation Conference in Washington, D.C.

ToleRam Nanotech is developing a system for packing drugs in nanoscale particles — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter — with its first application delivering drugs that better target immune-system rejection of transplanted organs. Three faculty members at Medical University of South Carolina founded the company: immunologist Carl Atkinson, biomedical engineer Ann-Marie Broome, and transplant surgeon Satish Nadig. They formed Toleram Nanotech in January 2014.

The founders say immune-system rejection is a widespread problem for organ transplants, with as many as 20 percent of kidney transplants rejected in 3 to 5 years, and about half of lung transplants overall. Current drugs, such as rapamycin, also known as sirolimus, can suppress immune-system rejection, but come with serious adverse side effects, including increased risk of infection and skin cancer.

The ToleRam Nanotech technology breaks up and packages rapamycin into nanoscale particles called micelles that make it possible to deliver much lower doses of the drug precisely to the target sites. “We encapsulate the drugs to put them in stealth mode and deliver them specifically to a localized region,” says Broome in a university statement. “They are released only to that area, eliminating the adverse side effects.”

Nadig adds, “It potentially will lower rejection of a transplanted organ while allowing the patient to be able to fight off infection and go about a normal life.”

The targeted rapamycin micelles are now in preclinical testing. The university says the team demonstrated the technology in lab mice with transplanted kidneys, where the micelles delivered the drug only to the transplanted kidneys and adjacent environment, leaving the rest of the recipients’ immune systems unaffected.

ToleRam Nanotech was recognized at the 2016 TechConnect World Innovation Conference, held 22-25 May, as one of the winners of its TechConnect Innovation Awards. The awards go to the top 15 percent of entries, judged by the potential impact on their industry sectors, in this case, medical devices.

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