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Protein Biotech Lands $51.5M in First Venture Round

Finance, calculator

(stevepb, Pixabay)

30 June 2016. A new spin-off biotechnology enterprise from Harvard University developing therapies that block signaling proteins causing disease, is raising $51.5 million its first venture funding round. This first-round financing for Morphic Therapeutic in Waltham, Massachusetts is led by the venture capital arms of pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.

Morphic Therapeutic creates small molecule, or low molecular weight, treatments that block the activity of integrins, a class of proteins in humans and other animals that attach cell skeletons to the extracellular matrix, the network of molecules providing structural and biochemical support for cells. Integrins provide signaling pathways going into the cell from outside, and out of the cell from inside, acting as receptors for binding molecules affecting cell activities, as well as other proteins. Many biological processes function normally with integrins, but when integrins send aberrant signals, a number of diseases can result.

Timothy Springer, an immunologist and biophysicist at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, has studied integrins since the 1980s. His lab’s research led to early treatments — administered with injections — already approved to address integrins associated with a number of diseases: multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, plaque psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, and complications during procedures implanting a stent to open arteries.

Springer founded Morphic Therapeutic to bring to market more recent research with small molecule compounds that could lead to oral drugs rather than injections. The company says that technology licensed from Springer’s lab at Harvard is designed to overcome challenges that up to now prevented development of small-molecule oral drugs blocking signaling activity of integrin targets in diseased tissue. Morphic expects to design treatments for immunological diseases, fibrotic and vascular disorders, and neoplastic conditions, those causing abnormal growth of tissue from rapid or uncontrolled cell division.

The company’s first financing round is lead by SR One, the venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Venture investments. Joining the round are AbbVie Ventures, another pharmaceutical venture group, as well as Omega Ventures. Polaris Partners, ShangPharma Investment Group, Schrödinger Inc., and Springer himself were original seed investors. The $51.5 million raised is expected to support research and development of multiple drug candidates into clinical trials.

Original investor Schrödinger Inc., a company making software for computational biology, is also collaborating with Morphic on design and discovery of small molecule drug candidates.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer.

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Radiation Enhances Nanoparticle Cancer Treatments

Cancer in headline


30 June 2016. A strategy targeting vulnerable proteins on tumors with chemotherapy delivered in nanoscale particles and preceded with shots of radiation was shown in lab mice to boost treatment effectiveness in a range of cancers. A team from the lab of Daniel Heller at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York published its findings in yesterday’s issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine (paid subscription required).

Heller’s lab studies the use of nanoscale drug delivery technologies — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter — for treating metastatic cancer that spreads from original cancer sites and is responsible for 90 percent of cancer deaths. Delivering cancer drugs in nanoscale pieces makes it possible to target tumors directly, preventing drugs from building up and harming healthy tissue, a major problem encountered with many current cancer treatments.

Delivering drugs as nanoparticles, however, encounters problems with extravasation, or leakage into tissue surrounding the tumor site. To overcome this problem, Heller and colleagues designed a technique that aims nanoparticles with chemotherapy drugs directly at a protein called P-selectin found in blood platelets and cells lining blood vessels, as well as expressed on some metastatic tumor cells, including lung, ovarian, breast, and liver. The nanoparticles are made of fucoidan, a natural carbohydrate material derived from seaweed, and known to attract and bind to P-selectin.

The researchers tested fucoidan nanoparticles delivering chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and doxorubicin with lab mice induced with melanoma, an advanced and aggressive form of skin cancer, and breast cancer. Results were compared to similar tumors on mice treated with nanoparticles made with dextran sulfate, a sodium salt compound used frequently as a stabilizer, and chemotherapy drugs delivered in free form. The results show mice receiving the fucoidan nanoparticles had greater tumor reduction and longer survival than mice receiving dextran sulfate nanoparticles or chemotherapy in free form.

While P-selectin is found on a number tumor cells, not all tumors express this protein target. The researchers also tested radiation as a way to make tumors that do not express P-selectin on their surface more vulnerable to fucoidan nanoparticles. The team grafted on the hind limbs of lab mice a form of lung cancer without P-selectin, and subjected one of the limbs to X-ray doses. The results show the tumors on the limb receiving X-rays started expressing P-selectin in about 4 hours, and increased over 24 hours.

In addition, the team found the tumor on the limb not receiving X-rays also expressing P-selectin proteins about 24 hours after the radiation, a phenomenon known as abscopal effect. Tests of fucoidan nanoparticle treatments in lab mice with tumors receiving X-rays show more chemotherapy drugs delivered to the tumor sites, as well as less tumor growth, and in some cases complete tumor regression.

The authors say this process still needs further refinement, particularly when dealing with radiation that can be toxic in some cases. Nonetheless, Heller and first author Yosi Shamay filed a patent for the targeted nanoparticle technology.

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Moderna, Merck Partner on Personal Cancer Vaccines

Human T-cell lymphocyte

Scanning electron micrograph of a human T-cell lymphocyte (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH)

29 June 2016. Biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics and drug maker Merck are developing therapeutic vaccines using messenger RNA that address unique genetic patterns in patients’ tumors. The deal is expected to bring Moderna an immediate payment of $200 million, and the chance to earn further payments to develop cancer treatments combining Moderna’s technology with an approved targeted antibody therapy for cancer made by Merck.

Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, develops medications that use genetic material to produce therapeutic proteins in the body, with a technology based on research licensed from Harvard University and MIT. That technology harnesses messenger RNA, a nucleic acid related to DNA used by cells to produce the amino acids in proteins for carrying out bodily functions. Moderna designs what it calls modified messenger RNA to produce proteins that act like drugs as treatments for diseases, creating antibodies able to cut the time and expense for therapeutic proteins over current genetic engineering methods.

Merck in Kenilworth, New Jersey developed pembrolizumab, a targeted antibody marketed under the brand name Keytruda that harnesses the immune system to fight tumors. Keytruda is in a class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors that limit the actions of tumor cells to block the immune system. In this case, Keytruda stops receptor proteins on the surface of tumor cells from blocking the activation of T-cells in the immune system to attack tumors. Keytruda is already approved by Food and Drug Administration to treat melanoma, an advanced and metastatic form of skin cancer, and non–small cell lung cancer.

Under the agreement, the companies will develop therapeutic cancer vaccines using Moderna’s messenger RNA technology to target neoantigens, unique sets of mutations expressed in cancer patients’ tumors. The vaccines will be designed to induce immune responses specifically targeted to those mutations. The companies believe this personalized activation of immune responses will work well with Keytruda and other checkpoint inhibitors.

The deal calls for Merck to make an immediate payment of $200 million for Moderna to design and evaluate messenger RNA treatments with Keytruda. Moderna will be responsible for all initial research and development through proof-of-concept. The initial payment will also cover building a small-batch manufacturing facility on a Moderna site outside Boston meeting Good Manufacturing Practice, or GMP, standards for pharmaceuticals, designed to deliver personalized vaccines.

Following proof-of-concept tests, Moderna and Merck may move ahead on further development of personalized cancer vaccine therapies. The deal calls for the companies to share costs and profits equally in a worldwide collaboration, with Moderna having an option to co-promote products from the partnership in the U.S. Under the agreement, Merck will make another payment of an undisclosed amount to Moderna, if the companies go ahead with second stage.

Merck and Moderna are already collaborating on development of antiviral vaccines and passive immunity therapies, those induced with antibodies delivered from outside the body. That deal, begun in January 2015, runs for 3 years with an optional 1-year extension.

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More Device Approvals, Higher Risks in Europe than U.S.

EKG graphic

(PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay)

29 June 2016. An analysis of regulatory approvals and outcomes shows medical devices are reviewed and approved faster in Europe than the U.S., but also face more safety issues later on. A team from Kings College London and Harvard University published its findings yesterday in the journal BMJ.

Researchers led by Aaron Kesselheim, a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, sought to better understand the impact of different regulatory approaches for medical devices between Europe and the U.S. In Europe, medical devices can receive Conformité Européenne or CE certification from the European Union if developers can show the devices work as intended and are likely to be safe. Clinical trials are required only on some high-risk systems. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration requires high risk devices to demonstrate safety and effectiveness, usually in clinical trials, before approval for marketing.

As a result, medical devices are generally approved faster in Europe and before the U.S. Regulators in both jurisdictions, say the authors, need to balance faster access to new devices against the public safety in setting rules for their review. In 2012, however, FDA issued a report listing 12 devices, such as breast implants and stents to repair aneurysms, that were approved in Europe but later found to harm patients. In this study, the team aimed to provide more systematic evidence of the impact on safety from the different approaches to regulation, which up to now has been limited by a lack of public registries of devices in Europe — FDA has such a registry — decentralized nature of regulation in Europe, and confidentiality of information provided to regulators.

Kesselheim and colleagues reviewed public announcements, through news releases and reports such as financial filings, of medical devices receiving CE certification from 2005 through 2010. Their review yielded a collection of 309 devices designed to treat cardiovascular, neurologic, and orthopedic conditions. The team also reviewed FDA registries and records for these same devices, as well as public records of clinical trials testing the devices for safety and effectiveness.

The researchers rated each device a “major innovation” if it represented the first of a new class of device, introduced new technology, made new claims of safety and effectiveness, or was intended for a new patient population. Devices not meeting any of these criteria were considered “other changes.” In addition, the team reviewed public databases and records in the U.S., U.K., and Germany for product recalls, safety notices, or software upgrades to fix deficiencies.

The Harvard-Kings College team found nearly 8 in 10 of the devices receiving CE marks (79%) were for cardiovascular conditions with the remainder split about evenly between neurologic and orthopedic devices, and about a quarter (24%) rated as major innovations. About two-thirds of the devices approved in Europe (67%) were also approved by FDA.

The researchers report as of January 2016, about a quarter of the devices (24%) receiving CE certification were recalled or the subject of a safety alert, such as an automated system to assist heart pumping that shut down and stopped without warning. Of the recalls and alerts, nearly twice the number occurred among devices approved first in Europe (27%) than those approved first by FDA (14%). Using statistical models of risk over time, devices approved first in Europe had a 3 to 4.5 times greater chance of recall or safety alerts than first approved in the U.S.

In addition, only about half (49%) of devices considered major innovations reported published clinical trials supporting their approval. Reports of these trials were published a median of about 3 years (37 months) following regulatory approval. Devices approved in the U.S. using FDA’s pre-market approval pathway for higher-risk systems were more likely to have published clinical trials than devices using other processes.

The authors recommend caution in overhauling regulatory processes to increase the speed of reviews, but also greater transparency for regulatory decisions in Europe, beginning with making public the current European database of devices. Kesselheim and colleagues also note that there is not necessarily a trade-off between regulation and market success. They cite a recent study showing coronary stents evaluated in clinical trials were more likely to be commercially successful than those that were not tested. Thus higher regulatory standards could help improve product sales.

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Animal-Free Leather Company Gains $40M in Venture Funds

Cowboy boots

(skeeze, Pixabay)

28 June 2016. A company making leather for consumer goods with tissue engineering and gene-editing from living cells is raising $40 million in its second venture funding round. The enterprise, Modern Meadow Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, says it now raised $53.5 million since its founding in 2011.

Modern Meadow produces leather without environmentally harmful methods of raising animals and tanning hides. The company applies principles of cell engineering developed in the labs of its scientific founder Gabor Forgacs at University of Missouri and Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. Its process starts with cells for producing collagen, an abundant protein providing substance to connective tissue such as bones, tendons, and skin, including the skin or hides of animals.

The basic collagen cells are then genetically modified to produce a leather-like material with specified properties, such as strength or suppleness, then the cells are cultured to proliferate and produce complex collagen molecules in sufficient quantities. The collagen molecules are assembled into nanoscale fibers that connect into networks that assemble further into raw three-dimensional structures resembling animal skins.

Because the engineered hide is produced in a lab, the traditional tanning process using chemicals to remove hair, flesh, and fat is largely eliminated. Only a final finishing process to preserve the engineered leather and provide suppleness and surface qualities is required. Modern Meadow says its processes reduce waste by about 80 percent, including fewer inputs of land, water, energy, and chemicals.

The new funding round is led by Horizons Ventures and Iconiq Capital with participation by ARTIS Ventures, Temasek, Breakout Ventures, Red Swan Ventures, Collaborative Fund and Tony Fadell. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Modern Meadow was an early recipient of seed funding from Breakout Labs, a program of the Thiel Foundation, founded by entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early venture backer of Facebook.

The company plans to use the new financing to convert from a research and development to a manufacturing enterprise, taking its first products to the marketplace. Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO — and son of Gabor Forgacs — says in a company statement that the $100 billion leather market “is subject to fluctuations in availability, quality, price, and growing demand. At Modern Meadow, we’re re-imagining this millennia-old material to create revolutionary new features without harming animals or the environment.”

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3-D Printing Technique Devised for Replacement Cartilage

Knee X-ray

(Akha, Wikimedia Commons)

28 June 2016. Biomedical engineers developed a process for directly printing replacement cartilage without the scaffolds needed in previous tissue engineering techniques. The team at Pennsylvania State University, led by engineering professor Ibrahim Ozbolat, describe their process in yesterday’s issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

Ozbolat and colleagues, from Penn State and University of Iowa where he was previously on the faculty, are seeking to simplify production of replacement cartilage tissue for people with osteoarthritis, or wear and tear on joints, and other cartilage damage. Once damaged, cartilage tissue does not grow back on its own. In addition, replacement cartilage not only needs to provide physical and structural support, but also the biological and cell signaling functions of original tissue.

Current tissue engineering methods for replacement cartilage require first creating a scaffold for the new tissue, usually from hydrogel, a material made up largely of water with polymer chains that provides a framework. Cartilage cells are then seeded on the hydrogel framework, where they proliferate and grow. “Hydrogels don’t allow cells to grow as normal,” says Ozbolat in a university statement. “The hydrogel confines the cells and doesn’t allow them to communicate as they do in native tissues.” Because of these limitations, adds Ozbolat, scaffold-grown tissue often lacks the needed mechanical properties and is susceptible to toxins from degrading hydrogel.

The researchers designed a process that produces new cartilage tissue directly with strands of cells that can be extruded through a 3-D printer. The cells are first cultured for 10 days inside thin tubes made of alginate, a biocompatible extract of algae used in wound healing, drug delivery, and tissue engineering. The cells adhere into strands that are easily removed from the alginate. The strands are thin enough to fit through a 3-D printer, with a specially-designed nozzle, and fabricated into tissue patches. The patches are then cultured further in nutrients where they self-assemble into replacement cartilage.

“We can manufacture the strands in any length we want,” notes Ozbolat. “Because there is no scaffolding, the process of printing the cartilage is scalable, so the patches can be made bigger as well.”

The Penn State team demonstrated the process in proof-of-concept tests with cartilage cells from cattle. The tests show the printed cartilage has biochemical and some mechanical properties similar to natural cartilage. The researchers also attached the printed cartilage to a cattle bone model. While superior to scaffold-grown cartilage, however, the replacement cartilage did not fully integrate with the bone, like original cartilage. The authors recommend a bio-compatible glue to improve adhesion.

Ozbolat tells more about 3-D printing of cartilage in the following video.

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Partnership Advising Women on C-Section Options

Pregnant woman

(Greyerbaby, Pixabay)

27 June 2016. An academic-business initiative is providing pregnant women with more information on birth options, particularly Cesarean section surgery. The project brings together Ariadne Labs and the company Square Roots, along with fertility/pregnancy app developer Ovuline, Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Cesarean section, or C-section, is surgery to deliver a baby, where the baby is brought out through the mother’s abdomen.  C-sections are often advised when the mother faces health problems, the baby is in distress, or the baby cannot fit through the vagina or is not positioned properly for vaginal birth. National Library of Medicine says in the U.S., about 1 in 4 women have their babies with a C-section, but Ariadne Labs says that percentage is now higher, about 1 in 3, and growing at an unsustainable rate.

Ariadne Labs itself is a joint venture in Boston of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard University’s School of Public Health that studies health care system performance at critical points in people’s lives, including childbirth. Leading Ariadne’s research on childbirth overtreatment is Neel Shah, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess medical center in Boston and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.

“C-section rates have surged 500 percent in just one generation,” says Shah in an Ariadne Labs statement. “A hospital’s C-section rate is an important indicator of a woman’s risk of having an unnecessary C-section at that hospital.”

In their initiative, Ariadne Labs and Square Roots are studying ways to engage expectant mothers in making informed decisions on choosing a hospital for their delivery, particularly facilities where C-sections are more routine. “Choosing the wrong hospital can increase the risk of a C-section significantly,” adds Shah. “This information is important, and we want to learn the best ways to make this information accessible and understandable to expecting women.”

Square Roots, in New York, is a company providing information and technology resources to improve the likelihood of healthy birth. Earlier in June, the company unveiled its Birth40 project, a 4-year plan to bring better information on healthy birth choices — including ratings of hospitals — to expectant mothers in 40 U.S. cities. In their new initiative, Square Roots plans to provide access to messages about healthy birth options prepared by Ariadne Labs, through the company’s city networks and technology platforms.

Both Square Roots and Ariadne Labs believe the state of birth health in the U.S. is growing worse. In a white paper published earlier in June, Square Roots says the U.S. spends more per birth than any country in the world, but the country’s maternal mortality rate is rising. Expecting mothers in the U.S., says the paper, are 75 percent more likely to die from complications today than at the end of the last century. Unnecessary C-sections, note Ariadne Labs and Square Roots, are responsible for 20,000 complications in low-risk women and an additional $5 billion in health care costs per year.

“As a clinician, I’m concerned by the overall trends across the board,” says Shah. “We need new approaches to ensure that women get the care they need, but are also not getting harmed by unnecessary surgery. Involving women in the process is an essential part of the solution.”

Shah tells more about the work of Ariadne Labs in reducing unnecessary C-sections in the following video.

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Grant for Research on Drugs to Improve Tissue Transplants

Surgeons in operating room

(skeeze, Pixabay)

27 June 2016. Department of Defense is funding research on new drugs that aim to improve the quality of tissue and limbs for transplants donated from people whose brains stop working. DoD awarded the grant of nearly $1 million to the Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

The Case Western Reserve team led by James Reynolds, professor of anesthesiology and surgery, aims to develop a new class of drugs designed to reverse damage to tissue caused when brain death occurs, which interrupts the flow of proteins known as S-nitrosothiols to the body. S-nitrosothiols, or SNOs, control oxygen delivery, blood flow, and cell activity. Without these proteins, tissue or entire limbs that may otherwise be suitable for transplants from consenting donors into wounded or injured service members or civilians, become too damaged.

“Brain death can disturb SNO functioning,” says Reynolds in a university statement, “which we believe is a major contributor to procurement rates of suitable organs as low as twenty percent from consented donors.” Reynolds adds, “Clearly, better methods are needed to support the donor after brain death, and we will be exploring one such option under this grant.”

In earlier research, Case Western Reserve colleague Jonathan Stamler, director of Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine, found that damage in animals from SNO deficiency can be reversed, reducing tissue damage. Under the new grant, Reynolds, Stamler, and colleagues will study a type of enzyme identified in these earlier studies that regulates SNO protein functions. In further tests with animals, the Case Western Reserve team will see if these enzymes can improve tissue quality in transplant recipients.

The researcher will look particularly at reversing SNO deficiency in a type of transplant surgery known as vascular composite allotransplantation that transplants an entire section of a limb, including skin and bone as well as muscle, nerves, and blood vessels to correct loss of multiple tissue types from traumatic injuries. Vascular composite allotransplantation is being increasingly used for complex reconstructions of limbs, as well as abdominal and serious facial injuries.

In addition to tests with animals, the team will also study detection of SNO deficiency in human donors. This part of the study will take blood tests and muscle biopsies, and monitor blood flow and oxygen uptake in human donors. “If our supposition holds true,” says Reynolds, “we will find that muscle and tissue in human donors, not just animals, are also harmed by deficiencies in SNOs.”

Based on the findings from the project, the Case Western Reserve researchers believe they can then move ahead on clinical trials of their drug with vascular composite allotransplantation surgery, which they believe can be extended to transplants of kidneys, hearts, and lungs.

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Genome Editing Company Adds $38M in Venture Funds

Gene editing illustration


24 June 2016. A company creating treatments for disease that edit the human genome is raising another $38 million in its second venture financing round. Crispr Therapeutics in Basel, Switzerland says with the new funding, it gained nearly $140 million in the entire round.

The Crispr Therapeutics technology is based on the research of Emmanuelle Charpentier, now a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin and a scientific founder of the company. Her research discovered the capability of Crispr — short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — to alter human genomes with an enzyme known as Crispr-associated 9, or Cas9. The Cas9 enzyme can program RNA to silence genes and provide immunity against invading genetic material. Cas9 also harnesses RNA to cut DNA at precise points in genomes, making it possible to delete, insert, or correct defects in human genomes. Charpentier led research teams that published their findings in the journal Science in 2012, and an article in Nature a year earlier.

The company is developing treatments that work either outside or inside the body. In some cases, cells will be removed from individuals, with their genes edited in lab cultures, then reinserted back into patient. In other cases, gene-editing mechanisms will be delivered with natural lipid nanoparticles directly to organs or through injections into the blood stream, where they can work inside the body.

Crispr Therapeutics says it is developing treatments for mutations in somatic or existing cells in the body, but not germline modifications that develop through reproductive processes and passed on to successive generations. The company signed a joint statement with Intellia Therapeutics in December 2015 limiting their work to “to discovering and developing gene editing-based treatments for serious diseases using only non-germline somatic cells.” Diseases being considered by Crispr Therapeutics include the inherited disorders sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, certain types of immunodeficiencies, and immune therapies for cancer.

Participating in the latest financing are Franklin Templeton Investments, New Leaf Venture Partners, funds advised by Clough Capital Partners L.P. and Wellington Capital Management L.L.P., and other undisclosed life sciences funds. Earlier second-round funders were Bayer Global Investments, an affiliate of Bayer AG, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Crispr Therapeutics was founded in April 2014, and as reported in Science & Enterprise, raised $25 million in its first venture funding round. The company opened a research office in Cambridge, Massachusetts a year later, and plans to use the new funding to expand that facility, as well as advance its current and future treatment programs.

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Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet

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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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