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Posts Tagged ‘Global Partnering & Biotech Investment’


37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: News at #JPM2019 for Jan. 10, 2019: Deals and Announcements

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

From Biospace.com

 

JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Update: Sage, Mersana, Shutdown Woes and Babies

Speaker presenting to audience at a conference

With the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference winding down, companies remain busy striking deals and informing investors about pipeline advances. BioSpace snagged some of the interesting news bits to come out of the conference from Wednesday.

SAGE Therapeutics – Following a positive Phase III report that its postpartum depression treatment candidate SAGE-217 hit the mark in its late-stage clinical trial, Sage Therapeutics is eying the potential to have multiple treatment options available for patients. At the start of J.P. Morgan, Sage said that patients treated with SAGE-217 had a statistically significant improvement of 17.8 points in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, compared to 13.6 for placebo. The company plans to seek approval for SAGE-2017, but before that, the FDA is expected to make a decision on Zulresso in March. Zulresso already passed muster from advisory committees in November, and if approved, would be the first drug specifically for postpartum depression. In an interview with the Business Journal, Chief Business Officer Mike Cloonan said the company believes there is room in the market for both medications, particularly since the medications address different patient populations.

 

Mersana Therapeutics – After a breakup with Takeda Pharmaceutical and the shelving of its lead product, Cambridge, Mass.-based Mersana is making a new path. Even though a partial clinical hold was lifted following the death of a patient the company opted to shelve development of XMT-1522. During a presentation at JPM, CEO Anna Protopapas noted that many other companies are developing therapies that target the HER2 protein, which led to the decision, according to the Boston Business Journal. Protopapas said the HER2 space is highly competitive and now the company will focus on its other asset, XMT-1536, an ADC targeting NaPi2b, an antigen highly expressed in the majority of non-squamous NSCLC and epithelial ovarian cancer. XMT-1536 is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials for NaPi2b-expressing cancers, including ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and other cancers. Data on XMT-1536 is expected in the first half of 2019.

Novavax – During a JPM presentation, Stan Erck, CEO of Novavax, pointed to the company’s RSV vaccine, which is in late-stage development. The vaccine is being developed for the mother, in order to protect an infant. The mother transfers the antibodies to the infant, which will provide the baby with protection from RSV in its first six months. Erck called the program historic. He said the Phase III program is in its fourth year and the company has vaccinated 4,636 women. He said they are tracking the women and the babies. Researchers call the mothers every week through the first six months of the baby’s life to acquire data. Erck said the company anticipates announcing trial data this quarter. If approved, Erck said the market for the vaccine could be a significant revenue driver.

“You have 3.9 million birth cohorts and we expect 80 percent to 90 percent of those mothers to be vaccinated as a pediatric vaccine and in the U.S. the market rate is somewhere between $750 million and a $1 billion and then double that for worldwide market. So it’s a large market and we will be first to market in this,” Erck said, according to a transcript of the presentation.

Denali Therapeutics – Denali forged a collaboration with Germany-based SIRION Biotech to develop gene therapies for central nervous disorders. The two companies plan to develop adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to enable therapeutics to cross the blood-brain barrier for clinical applications in neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and certain other diseases of the CNS.

AstraZeneca – Pharma giant AstraZeneca reported that in 2019 net prices on average across the portfolio will decrease versus 2018. With a backdrop of intense public and government scrutiny over pricing, Market Access head Rick Suarez said the company is increasing its pricing transparency. Additionally, he said the company is looking at new ways to price drugs, such as value-based reimbursement agreements with payers, Pink Sheet reported.

Amarin Corporation – As the company eyes a potential label expansion approval for its cardiovascular disease treatment Vascepa, Amarin Corporation has been proactively hiring hundreds of sales reps. In the fourth quarter, the company hired 265 new sales reps, giving the company a sales team of more than 400, CEO John Thero said. Thero noted that is a label expansion is granted by the FDA, “revenues will increase at least 50 percent over what we did in the prior year, which would give us revenues of approximate $350 million in 2019.”

Government Woes – As the partial government shutdown in the United States continues into its third week, biotech leaders at JPM raised concern as the FDA’s carryover funds are dwindling. With no new funding coming in, reviews of New Drug Applications won’t be able to continue past February, Pink Sheet said. While reviews are currently ongoing, no New Drug Applications are being accepted by the FDA at this time. With the halt of NDA applications, that has also caused some companies to delay plans for an initial public offering. It’s hard to raise potential investor excitement without the regulatory support of a potential drug approval. During a panel discussion, Jonathan Leff, a partner at Deerfield Management, noted that the ongoing government shutdown is a reminder of how “overwhelmingly dependent the whole industry of biotech and drug development is on government,” Pink Sheet said.

Other posts on the JP Morgan 2019 Healthcare Conference on this Open Access Journal include:

#JPM19 Conference: Lilly Announces Agreement To Acquire Loxo Oncology

36th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE January 8 – 11, 2018

37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019; Opening Videos, Novartis expands Cell Therapies, January 7 – 10, 2019, Westin St. Francis Hotel | San Francisco, California

37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: News at #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019: Deals and Announcements

 

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GSK Partners With SG3 Ventures to Add $100 Million to the Pittsburgh Biotech Scene

From Biospace News: Backed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), New VC Firm SG3 Ventures Has $100 Million to Bet on Pittsburg Startups

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Source: http://www.biospace.com/News/backed-by-glaxosmithkline-new-vc-firm-sg3-ventures/412039/source=TopBreaking?intcid=homepage-seekernewssection-tabtopbreakingnews

 

Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs will soon have another funding option for growing early phase startup companies.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has thrown its support behind the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund, which will help meet a need for early stage business startup capital in the Pittsburgh area. Philadelphia-based SG3 Ventures anticipates awarding its first round of funding in about a year, according to Brian McVeigh, vice president of worldwide business development transactions and investment management at GSK.

From Pittsburgh Post Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/healthcare-business/2016/03/11/New-early-stage-venture-fund-forming-with-eye-on-Pittsburgh-startups/stories/201603090016

New early-stage venture fund forming with eye on Pittsburgh startups

Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs will soon have another funding option for growing early phase startup companies.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has thrown its support behind the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund, which will help meet a need for early stage business startup capital in the Pittsburgh area. Philadelphia-based SG3 Ventures anticipates awarding its first round of funding in about a year, according to Brian McVeigh, vice president of worldwide business development transactions and investment management at GSK.

“There is a huge untapped opportunity,” Mr. McVeigh said. “Let’s bring the money here.”

New prescription drug treatments will be a priority for fund investments, but a balanced portfolio including life science technologies is planned.

In the venture ecosystem, insurers, pension funds and other institutions use such funds to invest in promising startup companies — both to balance their portfolios and to get a shot at investment returns that would not otherwise be possible. The venture funds oversee allotting capital to a portfolio of startup companies.

The investment money enables startups to mature and eventually bring in other investors through a public offering or acquisition by a larger company, generating money to repay the initial investors.

GSK and other big pharmaceutical companies are making similar investments to maximize returns and keep their product pipelines full, but GSK has been focusing on earlier stage companies, shifting its focus to pre-clinical technologies about five years ago, Mr. McVeigh said.

In addition, Big Pharma is increasingly relying on outsourced research and development operations, often in collaboration with universities, to fill industry product pipelines. GSK has funded a number of these initiatives, including a cancer collaboration with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center.

SG3 Managing Director Keith Marmer said the new venture fund will be committed to technologies developed outside the better known tech hubs of Silicon Valley and Boston-Cambridge.

“We’re here, we’re from here, and we want to be here,” he told a group of entrepreneurs at a recent breakfast meeting in Oakland. “Sustaining technology through research funding isn’t happening anywhere.”

Parsippany N.J.-based GSK closed its consumer health care operations in Moon in 2015, eliminating 274 jobs a year after the company’s merger with Swiss vaccine maker Novartis. Mr. McVeigh works at the company’s offices in King of Prussia, Pa.

With federal research dollars flat in recent years, universities nationwide have been turning to commercialization of intellectual property as a new source of revenue.

At the same time, Pittsburgh’s startup community is showing signs of new life.

Among the signs: Patrick Gallagher’s commitment to the commercialization of faculty research since becoming University of Pittsburgh chancellor 18 months ago, awakening a sleeping giant of economic development and innovation and hospital system UPMC’s creation of a commercial enterprises arm to fund promising technologies.

The timing couldn’t be better for venture capital funds like SG3.

Nationwide, early stage funding has been chasing fewer deals, according to a report by Money Tree, which was compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.

Early stage investments nationally last year totaled $19.8 billion, a 23 percent increase from $16.1 billion in 2014. But the number of deals were essentially flat from the previous year, suggesting that some companies were left out in the cold.

What’s more, the amount of money available to Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs after the earliest rounds of investment isn’t keeping pace with the innovations coming out of the city’s universities, said Dietrich Stephan, a serial entrepreneur who also chairs the human genetics department at Pitt.

“There’s real substance here,” he said. “Without money, we can’t build.”

Seed investment funding — the earliest level of funding — is not a problem in Pittsburgh, said Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC lawyer Jeremy Garvey, who also chairs the Bridgeville-based Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association.

“The predominance of funding in this market comes in the earliest stages,” he said. “Institutional funding is much harder to get in this market.”

Early stage venture funding began drying up with the stock market crash of 2008, which also chilled the financial markets for initial public offerings for biotech companies, Mr. McVeigh said. Eventually, conditions thawed for IPOs, but the lower valuations for new companies than before 2008 made that less attractive than before.

“We’re really energized by the energy there” in Pittsburgh, Mr. McVeigh said. “We’re looking to bring venture capital to the region.”

Kris B. Mamula: kmamula@post-gazette.com

About SG3 Ventures

SG3 Ventures is an early stage life science venture capital firm. Our primary focus in on therapeutics and digital health; however, we will invest opportunistically when presented with a potential vehicle to drive superior returns for our limited partners. We are active in company formation, deploying financial and human resources to help deliver value. In addition, we access deep industry networks to ensure a path to market with strong commercial partnerships built into our companies from the beginning. SG3 prefers to invest in the greater Philadelphia Region (Princeton to the north, Baltimore to the south and Pittsburgh to the west). We prefer to make initial investments at the formation or seed stage with a focus on providing financing through mature rounds of investment.

  • Website

    http://sg3ventures.com

  • Industry

    Financial Services

  • Type

    Partnership

  • Headquarters

    3711 Market Street Suite 800Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States

  • Company Size

    1-10 employees

More articles on the Open Access Journal on Biotech Investing Include

J.P. Morgan 34th Annual Healthcare Conference & Biotech Showcase™ January 11 – 15, 2016 in San Francisco

New Values for Capital Investment in Technology Disruption: Life Sciences Group @Google and the Future of the Rest of the Biotech Industry

Bristol-Myers Squibb: A global BioPharma leader – Tracing the innovative biotech core of $3.7 billion R&D Investment and $16.4 billion in Net Sales

 

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Starting a Biotech the European Way

Author:  Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

A wonderful post by Tony Marcel in Nature Biotechnology highlights some of the structural differences in the way biotech startups are formed in Europe contrasted with bio-entrepreneurship as conducted in the United States.  Tony Marcel is currently the CEO of FGene S.A. and gives a personal experience  of the European biotech startup scene and highlights the differences, as he sees it, in the unique business development models occurring in Europe versus the US.  This post will highlight features from the article.

  • US model of biotech is not easily transferable to how Europe does business
  • US model involves developing a specific technology platform then selling that tool, service or platform to pharma for R&D $ and royalties
  • European perspective is to build networks instead of platforms which can deliver capabilities or one product to pharma
  • The article discusses three weaknesses identified in the biotech world with respect to Europe and the US

Three ” weaknesses” identified which may affect decision to start a biotech in Europe include:

  1. European academic scientists have trepidation making deals with big pharma
  2. European scientists are not as eager as US counterparts to start a biotech
  3. biotechs still are not as good as pharma in drug development so even their pipeline of “hits” are failing in clinical trials

The article aims to use these weaknesses to define a European way involving

  • defining management players and market niche early on
  • reducing the barriers to entry (i.e. legal)
  • establishing the relationships to increase viability

 

The full article can be found at the following link:

http://www.nature.com/bioent/2003/030101/full/nbt0299supp_9.html

 

An emerging European model for bioentrepreneurship

Tony Marcel

Tony Marcel is CEO of FGene S.A., 91, Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris, France

e-mail:  tonymftmcgene@compuserve.com.

The US model for biotechnology is not easily exportable to Europe, but an alternative European business model may be adaptable everywhere.

There is a widespread opinion that biotechnology companies worldwide need to follow business models initiated in the US. These models, generally speaking, are based on development of a specific technology platform. The prevailing wisdom suggests this technology can be sold as a tool or service to pharmaceutical companies or can be used to develop a lead compound that can then be sold to big pharma for R&D dollars and single-digit downstream royalties.

But my experience as a former academic medical researcher who has helped discover, develop, and market drugs for Hoechst, Laboratoires Roussel, Roussel-Uclaf, Rhône-Poulenc Sante, and Amgen has taught me that there is an appealing alternative to this model that may be more practical from the European perspective. Rather than building technologies, one can build networks that have the capability of delivering to big pharma the one product they cannot refuse: validated lead compounds for unmet medical needs.

Identifying a market niche

My background has taught me that an effective way to find solutions is to look at weaknesses perceived by the status quo, and then to develop a strategy to turn them into strengths. Biotechnology’s biggest weakness was its lack of products, in traditional pharmaceutical terms. Relatively few lead compounds have made their way through clinical trials and onto the market. So to separate your company from the crowd, my first conclusion is that it needs to be product-based. It should develop lead compounds that can be sold to big pharma, or take those compounds through clinical trials and to the market.

How do you accomplish this in Europe? I identified three weaknesses from a traditional biotechnology or pharmaceutical perspective that I felt could be developed into strengths. The first was that European scientists are much more risk averse than their American counterparts when it comes to setting up their own business. The legal, financial, and cultural infrastructure to take such a step is far more developed in the US than elsewhere.

The second was that European academic scientists tended to be mistrustful of big pharma’s intentions in licensing discussions. Taking the fruits of their research and developing it into a business is an uncharted area for most, and their unfamiliarity with this process made them cautious.

Finally, biotechnology startups everywhere, not just in Europe, are usually not very efficient in conducting pharmaceutical development. In general, they are discovery-focused companies that lack both the expertise and the contacts in these areas to efficiently manage this process.

These three weaknesses provide the basis for my product-based business plan. The fact that European scientists are not as ready to start companies as in the US makes Europe a source of world-class research not already tied up commercially. In addition, my experience in the pharmaceutical world has demonstrated that a commitment to building a relationship based on trust with scientists and their university licensing departments tremendously enhances the quality of these exchanges and, over time, provides remarkable access to a pipeline of innovative lead compounds.

Finally, the pharmaceutical industry’s move to outsource much of the development and clinical trials process has created a remarkable infrastructure for moving lead compounds through development. One only needed to know when this was appropriate and to have the money to commit to that project to realize a major portion of the development process.

The business model that results from uniting these strengths is a company dedicated not to a specific technology platform, but rather to the development of innovative compounds discovered and patented by academia. The company’s niche is to license in molecules at an early stage and demonstrate proof of principle, and take them through regulatory preclinicals, as well as phase I/II clinicals. At that point, the company licenses its products to big pharma. Profit is generated by the substantial risk-to-reward ratio between the cost of licensing in molecules and the outlicensing price to big pharma.

Management

Contrary to the way many US biotechnology companies are run, the management structure of such a company is not a one-person show. This strategy relies heavily on a supervisory board made up of representatives from European ministries and major European banks. It is also dependent on a scientific advisory board (SAB) with members from key European states. Unlike the boards of some biotechnology companies, the individuals selected are not merely figureheads. They must be committed to an operational role in which they are regularly consulted about the company’s plans.

The key to making this work is to maintain permanent links with academia, the source of new molecules, through publications, meetings, and also through SAB members. One also needs to develop comparable relationships in the pharmaceutical industry in order to keep abreast of licensing-in needs. Using this dual approach, a company will be able to identify discoveries relevant to a major pharmaceutical market before they are published. The company can then select candidates for licensing based on demonstrations of their potentially useful activity, the proof of pilot synthesis and purification capability, and sufficient intellectual property protection.

Given the academic scientist’s aversion to starting a business, where will this network of managers come from? In Europe, the merger and acquisition fever that has hit both the pharmaceutical and banking industries has created a large pool of experienced professionals, acquainted with science, marketing, and business. Some of these individuals will be at a point in their lives where setting up companies is an exciting alternative career.

The challenge for this new generation of European bioentrepreneurs will be to develop their ability to create a new level of cross-talk between inventors and developers. Their core responsibility will be much in keeping with their training: Build and nurture a portfolio of molecules at various stages of development.

Barriers to entry

If this model is so straightforward, why do pharmaceutical companies not eliminate the biotechnology middleman and reap the rewards directly? One of the three premises of this model is that a small biotech company is more able to concentrate on an academic alliance than a large pharmaceutical company. Biotechnology’s close identification with academia through the training of both its management and staff gives it a cultural advantage in assuming this role.

Historically, the model in which big pharma establishes a direct relationship with academia has never proven successful. For example, SmithKline and French invested much of its Tagamet earnings into developing academic alliances to fill its pipelines. Nonetheless, investing a substantial amount of money in these relationships over a significant period of time did not prevent this group from having to merge with Beecham. Nearly every working pharmaceutical executive today has a similar war story.

The reason it has failed for the past 20 years, and is likely to continue to fail for the next 20, is that it concentrates efforts in the hands of the most powerful pharmaceutical companies and key research institutions. The resulting bureaucracy is so overwhelming it not only alienates the scientific innovators, but creates a stifling atmosphere in which decisions simply cannot be made.

But old habits die hard, and this model has long been a tradition in Europe—particularly in France. Therefore, it is likely, if for no other reason than to reap the potential financial returns of such a model, that pharmaceutical companies will continue to make this model work.

However, the important role that biotechnology can play in this process is being recognized by some individuals now in positions of responsibility in pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and government offices. These individuals are doing their best to support biotechnology’s role in the development of innovative new medicines.

Viability

If you have read this far, you are probably persuaded by the arguments, but may wonder, “If it is such a great business model, why hasn’t anyone done it before?” Well, they have. In 1995, FGene was founded in France as a company devoted to the development of biopharmaceutical products. The company was initiated by the willingness of the Paris-based Institut Pasteur, a major European academic institution, to license molecules to it. This relationship allowed the beginning of the process I have just described.

The resolve of the French government, key players in academia, the investment community, and the pharmaceutical industry to enhance the growth of biotechnology in France is an opportunity we have seized. We have tried to duplicate in Europe the remarkable links developed between biotechnology startups and academia in the US, and hope to create a viable business serving the needs of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that are literally in our backyard.

In three years of existence, FGene already boasts five products in its active development portfolio: a recombinant protein for the treatment of traumatic spinal section; a peptide for the prevention and therapy of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular ischemia, such as coronary diseases; a selective IL2 receptor agonist for the treatment of cancer; a peptide active on kidney and bone for the treatment of bone and mineral balance disorders, such as osteoporosis; and a peptide for improving male pattern sexual arousal.

We are encouraged that we have made this much progress in such a short time. While this model is still not proven in terms of financial success, it provides a much stronger foundation for growing a biotechnology company than most biotechnology business plans currently in use because costs are directly related to the development of marketable products.

Conclusions

For budding European bioentrepreneurs, this model recommends itself for three reasons: First, it uses unexploited resources that are difficult to access through traditional biotechnology or pharmaceutical models. Second, it is based on pharmaceutical customers’ high-priority needs. And third, it provides a company with a burn rate that is in direct proportion to the realization of a marketable product.

This model has first taken hold in France because of a unique set of circumstances, but its applicability seems uthe commitment of a network of individuals to build a new kind of biotechnology company.

My vision is that companies formed will reinvigorate the European pharmaceutical industry. In the end, everyone wins. Academic science has a new route to receive fair payment for their innovations, biotechnology companies show a rapid timeline to profitability, making investors happy, and pharmaceutical companies fill their pipelines with truly innovative medicines. But the real winner in the end will be the consumer—the rapid translation of genomic products will lead to medicines that improve healthcare at an affordable price, in a much shorter time frame than previously possible.

 

source: http://www.nature.com/bioent/2003/030101/full/nbt0299supp_9.html

More articles on BioEntrepreneurship in this Online Open Access Journal Include:

11:00AM – 10/1/2014: Scientific Collaborations @14th Global Partnering & Biotech Investment, Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

9:00AM 10/1/2014: Partnering I @14th Global Partnering & Biotech Investment, Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

BioTech Partnerships and the National Model in Israel

Four Startups After One Year: BioDesign Entrepreneurship Program @ Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center

Biotech Chinese and Israeli Strategic Collaboration: Pontifax and WuXi PharmaTech (Cayman) Inc. (NYSE: WX)

Top 10 Israeli medical advances to watch in 2014 @ ISRAEL21c

Israel’s Innovation System: A Triple Helix with Four Sub-helices

Helix Model of Innovation in Israel: The Global Scheme and its Local Application

i-CORE Participation In Israel: Hebrew University faculty leads and holds Scientific Management Positions in Five I-CORE Centers

Stem Cell Research — The Frontier is at the Technion in Israel

Next-generation Universal Cell Immunotherapy startup Adicet Bio, Menlo Park, CA is launched with $51M Funding by OrbiMed

Recent Breakthroughs in Cancer Research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology- 2015

BEYOND THE “MALE MODEL”: AN ALTERNATIVE FEMALE MODEL OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

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AGTC (AGTC) , An adenoviral gene therapy startup, expands in Florida with help from $1 billion deal with Biogen

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

from Biospace News

AGTC Sets Up Shop in Florida, New Facility to House 75 Employees
February 17, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation (AGTC), a biotechnology company researching adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapies for the treatment of rare diseases, is expanding into the rapidly growing north central Florida biotech corridor.

The company, which was founded on technology developed at the University of Florida, is opening a combined use corporate office and laboratory facility in Alachua, Fla. AGTC’s portion of the new multi-tenant facility is expected to accommodate up to about 75 people and consists of approximately 20,000 square feet including state-of-the-art lab and office space as well as space for future expansion, the company announced this morning.

“The new facility will help us to accelerate our research and development efforts for novel AAV-based gene therapies for rare diseases and house critical corporate functions including finance, quality assurance and project management, while providing ample space as we continue to bring new talent to our team,” Sue Washer, president and chief executive officer of AGTC said in a statement.

AGTC’s lead product candidates focus on X-linked retinoschisis, achromatopsia and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, which are inherited orphan diseases of the eye, caused by mutations in single genes that significantly affect visual function and currently lack effective medical treatments. Retinoschisis is a condition in which an area of the retina has separated into two layers. The part of the retina that is affected by retinoschisis will have suboptimal vision, according to the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center. Achromatopsia is a condition of the eye that is characterized by an absence (partial or total) of color vision. People with the complete form of achromatopsia are unable to perceive any colors and can only see black, white and shades of gray.

AGTC is also pursuing pre-clinical development of treatments for wet AMD using the company’s experience in ophthalmology to expand into disease indications with larger markets.

In August, AGTC’s research was bolstered by a $1 billion deal withBiogen (BIIB) to support the company’s gene-based therapies. As part of the deal, Biogen holds a license to AGTC’s XLRS and XLRP programs and an additional three licenses, BioSpace (DHX) reported in August.

David Day, assistant vice president & director of the Office of Technology Licensing at the University of Florida, touted the growth of the biotech sector in north central Florida.

“AGTC’s progress in developing novel treatments for rare diseases without adequate therapeutic options is a particularly good model for the entire biotechnology sector,” Day said in a statement.

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Recent Breakthroughs in Cancer Research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology- 2015

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Below are recent advances which occurred in 2015 on Cancer at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

including:

  • role of proteosome, metabolomics, cell signaling and ubiquitin system in cancer progression
  • partnerships with pharma and academic centers around the globe
  • development of early detection kits and novel therapeutic strategies including nanoparticle drug delivery systems

 

At: http://www.technion.ac.il/en/2015/04/breakthrough-in-cancer-research/

 

The ubiquitin system produces a protein that greatly restricts the development of cancerous tumors.

A new study by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology could hold one key to control cancer cell growth and development. In a paper published in the April 9, 2015 edition of CELL, the team reports on the discovery of two cancer-suppressing proteins.

Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover. Photographer: Dan Porges

Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover. Photographer: Dan Porges

The research was conducted in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover, of the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The team was led by research associate Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv and , included additional research students and colleagues, as well as physicians from the Rambam, Carmel and Hadassah Medical Centers, who are studying tumors and their treatment.

The heretofore-undiscovered proteins were found during ongoing research on the ubiquitin system, an important and vital pathway in the life of the cell, which is responsible for the degradation of defective proteins that could damage the cell if not removed. The ubiquitin system tags these proteins and sends them for destruction in the cellular complex known as the proteasome.  The system also removes functional and healthy proteins that are not needed anymore, thereby regulating the processes that these proteins control.

Usually, the proteins that reach the proteasome are completely broken down, but there are some exceptions, and the current line of research examined p105, a long precursor of a key regulator in the cell called NF-κB. It turns out that p105 can be broken down completely in certain cases following its tagging by ubiquitin,  but in other cases it is only cut and shortened and becomes a protein called p50.

NF-κB has been identified as a link between inflammation and cancer. The hypothesis of the connection between inflammatory processes and cancer was first suggested in 1863 by German pathologist Rudolph Virchow, and has been confirmed over the years in a long series of studies. Ever since the discovery (nearly 30 years ago) of NF-κB, numerous articles have been published linking it to malignant transformation. It is involved in tumors of various organs (prostate, breast, lung, head and neck, large intestine, brain, etc.) in several parallel ways, including: inhibition of apoptosis (programmed cell death) normally eliminates transformed cells; acceleration of uncontrolled division of cancer cells; formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which are vital to tumor growth; and increased resistance of cancerous cells to irradiation and chemotherapy.

The dramatic effect of these proteins on cancer growth: above the two tumors in the foreground (the control group) are tumors that express high levels of the proteins

The dramatic effect of these proteins on cancer growth: above the two tumors in the foreground (the control group) are tumors that express high levels of the proteins

As noted, the precursor p105 is “handled” by the ubiquitin system in one of two parallel and equally prevalent ways. It is either destroyed completely, or shortened and transformed to p50. The current research deciphers the decision-making mechanism that determines which process will be applied to the protein: when a ubiquitin system component called KPC1 is involved in the process and attaches ubiquitin to p105, the protein is shortened to become p50. When ubiquitination is mediated by another component of the system (and without KPC1), p105 is degraded.

The ubiquitin molecule within all living cells

The ubiquitin molecule within all living cells

The decision between these two options has significant implications on the cell, as the presence of high levels of KPC1 (which generates p50) and p50 (the product of the process) – with the accompanying disruption of the normal ratios between the processes – suppresses the malignant growth and apparently protects the healthy tissue. The current research was conducted on models of human tumors grown in mice, as well as on samples of human tumors, and a strong connection was discovered between the suppression of malignancy and the level of the two proteins, clearly indicating that the increased presence of KPC1 and/or p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.

Professor Ciechanover, who is also the president of the Israel Cancer Society, notes that many more years are required “to establish the research and gain a solid understanding of the mechanisms behind the suppression of the tumors. The development of a drug based on this discovery is a possibility, although not a certainty, and the road to such a drug is long and far from simple.”

Professor Ciechanover won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004 (jointly with Professors Avram Hershko – also from the Technion – and Irwin Rose, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center) for the discovery of the ubiquitin system. The current line of research is a continuation of that discovery.

Indian generic drugmaker giant Sun Pharma to work with Technion to explore new ways to fight tumors

By David Shamah April 17, 2015, 3:09 pm 10

President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesty Tomer Reichmann)

President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesty Tomer Reichmann)
President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesty Tomer Reichmann)

 

Days after the Technion announced that a team led by Nobel Prize laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover had discovered how proteins could be used to suppress cancer and control tumor growth and development, the institute revealed that it had entered into an exclusive agreement with India’s Sun Pharmaceuticals — the world’s fifth-largest specialty generic pharmaceutical company and India’s top pharmaceutical company.

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Under the agreement, researchers from the Technion and Sun will conduct studies on how high concentrations of two proteins can protect tissue from tumors. A study published in the medical journal Cell this week discussed how the proteins can suppress malignancies.

Along with Ciechanover, the research team included Dr. Gila Maor and Professor Ofer Binah. In a statement, Ciechanover said that the research held a great deal of promise of an effective drug for treating cancer, “although this is not a certainty, and the road to such a drug is long and far from simple.”

The deal with Sun is just one of several R&D ventures between Israel and India, on both the business and government levels. So far, the two countries have signed seven bilateral economic and R&D agreements, including one that fosters joint projects on space travel and satellite development.

 

NYU and Technion to forge ‘groundbreaking’ partnership in cancer research

On Wednesday night, they announced a $9 million gift from philanthropists Laura and Isaac Perlmutter that will fund two major, joint research endeavors with potentially far-reaching impact in advancing cancer research. The joint program aims at attracting additional, world-class support from institutions and individuals who are dedicated to eradicating cancer through focused and efficient research, they said in a joint statement.

The first $3 million of the grant will finance six cancer-focused research projects to be conducted by teams spearheaded by co-investigators from both NYU and the Technion. The remaining $6 million will be used to establish a state-of-the-art research facility on Technion’s campus that will support these and other research projects and focus mainly on the emerging field of cancer metabolomics.

“NYU Langone and the Technion have a shared, longstanding commitment to advancing cancer research,” said Dr. Dafna Bar-Sagi, senior vice president and vice dean for science at the New York hospital, chief science officer at NYU School of Medicine and a principal architect of the NYU Langone-Technion partnership.  “We are now at a great moment in our institutions’ illustrious histories, a point from which we can jointly leverage the talent and creativity of our researchers toward accelerating breakthroughs. The foresight and the generosity of the Perlmutters, particularly at this time of financial challenge in funding for basic research, will have tremendous impact.”

“Bringing together the unique expertise of researchers from both NYU and the Technion will hopefully enable us to overcome some of the most difficult challenges in treating cancer patients,” said Technion Prof.  Aaron Ciechanover, the 2004 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry and Distinguished Research Professor and head of the David and Janet Polak Cancer and Vascular Biology Research Center at the Technion Faculty of Medicine.

Renowned cancer biologist Dr. Benjamin Neel, an expert in the field of cell signal transduction, recently joined the Langone faculty as director of the Perlmutter Cancer Center, and Dr. Eyal Gottlieb, a world leader in cancer metabolism, has been recruited to lead the new research facility at the Technion funded by the Perlmutter gift. Neel will work closely with Ciechanover to lead the collaborative cancer research effort between the two institutions, they said.

In addition, Neel will oversee at NYU the building of world-class translational programs in immunotherapy, cancer genetics/targeted therapies and epigenetics, imaging, as well as expanded programs in clinical care, community outreach and supportive oncology.

New technology for early detection of stomach cancer

The innovative method, developed at the Technion, identifies persons at risk for developing stomach cancer and for detecting tumors at an earlier stage. The prestigious journal Gut, which published the research, notes that the detection method is quick, simple, inexpensive and non-invasive.

Innovative gastric cancer-detection technology

Innovative gastric cancer-detection technology

Innovative gastric cancer-detection technology developed by the Technion can be used for the early detection of stomach cancer and for identifying persons at risk for developing the disease. The new detection method, based on breath analysis, has significant advantages over the existing detection technology: Gut reports that the new method is quick, simple, inexpensive and non-invasive.

Gastric cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancer and in most cases, its diagnosis involves an endoscopy (the insertion of a tube into the esophagus, requiring that the patient fast and receive an intravenous sedative). Treatment is aggressive chemotherapy, radiation and the full or partial removal of the stomach. The disease develops in a series of well-defined steps, but there’s currently no effective, reliable, and non-invasive screening test for picking up these changes early on. Thus, many people succumb to stomach cancer only because it was not diagnosed in time.

The new technology, developed by Prof. Hossam Haick of the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering, can be used to detect premalignant lesions at the earliest stage, when healthy cells start becoming cancerous.

The research, published in Gut as part of the doctoral thesis of Mr. Haitham Amal, was conducted in conjunction with a Latvian research group headed by Prof. Marcis Leja, based on the largest population sample ever in a trial of this type. 484 people participated in the trial, 99 of whom had already been diagnosed with stomach cancer. All the participants were tested for Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium known to increase the risk for stomach cancer, and two breath samples were taken from each person.

The first sample from each participant was analyzed using the GCMS technique, which measures volatile organic substances in exhaled breath. The researchers noted that GCMS technology cannot be used to detect stomach cancer because the testing is very expensive and requires lengthy processing times and considerable expertise to operate the equipment.

The second breath sample was tested using nanoarray analysis, the unique technology developed by Prof. Haick, combined with a pattern recognition algorithm.

The findings:

  1. Based on the concentrations of 8 specific substances (out of 130) in the oral cavity, the new technology can distinguish between three groups: gastric cancer patients, persons who have precancerous stomach lesions, and healthy individuals.
  2. The new technology accurately distinguishes between the various pre-malignant stages.
  3. The new technology can be used to identify persons at risk for developing gastric cancer.
  4. The diagnosis is accurate, regardless of other factors such as age, sex, smoking habits, alcohol consumption and the use of anti-oxidant drugs.

In short, the nano-array analysis method developed by Prof. Haick is accurate, sensitive technology that provides a simple and inexpensive alternative to existing tests (such as GCMS). This new technology offers early, effective detection of persons at risk for developing stomach cancer, without unnecessary invasive tests (endoscopy). In order to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of the new, a wide-scale clinical trial is currently under way in Europe, with thousands of participants who have cancerous or pre-cancerous tumors.

About Prof. Hossam Haick

Prof. Hossam Haick, who joined the senior staff at the Technion Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering in 2006, has been working since that year on the development of innovative, non-invasive technology for detecting cancer and other diseases. This technology is based on an “electronic nose” – an apparatus capable of detecting illnesses by analyzing a patient’s exhaled breath.

Prof. Haick, a native of Nazareth, completed his Ph.D. studies at the Technion by the time he was 27 and went to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and Caltech Institute of Technology in California. He returned to the Technion in 2006 and his research group was awarded one million euros in grants by the European Union, which was very impressed by his research into artificial olfactory systems. Today he heads a consortium that includes Siemens and several universities, research institutes and companies in Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Latvia and Israel. Since joining the senior faculty in the Chemical Engineering Department in 2006, Prof. Haick has won dozens of awards, grants and international honors. These include the Marie Curie Excellence Grant, European Research Council (ERC) grant and the Bill & Melinda Gates Award. Prof. Haick was nominated to MIT’s list of the 35 leading young scientists worldwide, received the Knight of the Order of Academic Palms, from the French Government and won the Hershel Rich Technion Innovation Award (twice), as well as the Tenne Prize for Excellence in the Science of Nanotechnology. He has also been recognized for his outstanding teaching skills and is the recipient of the Yanai Prize for Academic Excellence. In 2014, at the initiative of the president of the Technion, Prof. Haick headed an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in nanotechnology and nano-sensors that had an enrollment of 42,000.

meta

Early Warning of Cancer Metastasis

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Israel and around the world. Innovative technology developed at the Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering will enable the prediction of cancer metastasis after the appearance of breast cancer. The technology, whose efficacy has been proven in preliminary laboratory-trials, is entering into advanced testing using cells from patients undergoing surgery.

In contrast to benign cells (right), metastatic cells (left) penetrate into the gel and disappear inside it, thanks to their unique characteristics
In contrast to benign cells (right), metastatic cells (left) penetrate into the gel and disappear inside it, thanks to their unique characteristics

Assistant Professor Daphne Weihs recently achieved a research breakthrough: the unique technology that she developed – a biomechanical method for early detection of metastatic cancer – was approved by the Ethics Committee. This means that the technology that was found to be effective in tests on cell lines will advance to trials with tumor cells collected directly after surgery, in cooperation with Rambam Healthcare Campus.

According to Assistant Professor Weihs, the practical concept is that “during or immediately after a biopsy or surgery on a malignant tumor, the system will enable the medical team to quantitatively evaluate the likelihood of the presence or development of tumor metastases in other organs, and to propose which organ or organs are involved. Such knowledge will make it possible to act at a very early stage to identify and curb these metastases and, moreover, to prevent the primary tumor from metastasizing further.

Cancer is a general name for a wide family of diseases – more than 200 – whose common denominator is that the cell division rate becomes uncontrolled and the cells become immortal. In other words, the cancer mechanism disrupts the normal cell division process and converts it into “wild” and rapid division. Since the cells do not age and do not die, the original, primary tumor expands, invades and takes over more and more nearby tissue. In addition, apart from spreading to its immediate vicinity, a tumor that has become very aggressive “knows” how to send metastases to more distant tissues through the lymph and circulatory systems. Metastases (secondary tumors) are usually more dangerous than the primary tumor because it is difficult to identify them at their inception. When they are detected at an advanced stage, treating them medically is more complicated and the medical prognosis is typically not good.

“In fact, most cancer-related deaths are caused by metastases rather than by the primary tumor, and therefore vast resources are invested in developing methods for early detection of metastases,” explains Assistant Professor Daphne Weihs. “Early detection means timely and more effective treatment. The new approach that we are developing will enable early prediction of the likelihood of the formation of metastases and where in the body their development is probable. This prediction is based on identifying the biomechanics of the primary tumor cells, and does not require us to know the specific genetic makeup of the tumor.”

Mobile SniffPhone will detect cancer on a user’s breath

Diagnostic system developed by Technion professor is to pair with tiny smell-sensitive sensor that can go anywhere
By David Shamah February 3, 2015, 2:05 pm

A patient uses the NaNose breathalyzer (Photo credit: Courtesy Technion)

Writers
David Shamah

An innovative early disease detection system that uses the sense of smell is going mobile.

 

The NaNose breathalyzer technology developed by Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion will soon be installed in a mobile phone – to be called, appropriately, the SniffPhone. A tiny smell-sensitive sensor will be installed onto a phone add-on, and using specially designed software, the phone will be able to “smell” users’ breath to determine if they have cancer, among other serious diseases.

By identifying the special “odor” emitted by cancer cells, the NaNose system can detect the presence of tumors, both benign and malignant, more quickly, efficiently and cheaply than previously possible, said Haick.

“Current cancer diagnosis techniques are ineffective and impractical,” he said. NaNose technology, he said, “could facilitate faster therapeutic intervention, replacing expensive and time-consuming clinical follow-up that would eventually lead to the same intervention.”

According to research done by Haick’s team, the NaNose system has a 90 percent accuracy rate.

The smartphone device is just a vehicle to implement the NaNose technology that can be taken anywhere and used in any circumstances, including in rural areas of the developing world where bringing in sophisticated testing equipment is impossible.

The plan calls for a chip with NaNose technology to be installed in a device that is attached to a smartphone, and for an app to read the sensor data, analyzing it on the device or uploading it to the cloud for processing.

NaNose technology will be especially useful in battling lung cancer, said Haick. According to US government statistics, lung cancer kills more Americans annually than the next three most common cancers — colon, breast, and pancreatic — combined. The reason, doctors say, is because lung cancer is so difficult to detect. Currently, the only way to detect early-stage lung cancer is through an extensive process involving blood tests, biopsies, CT scans, ultrasound tests, and other procedures — and even then, detection is difficult.

“Mostly the patient arrives for diagnosis when the symptoms of the sickness have already begun to appear,” said Haick, describing the drawbacks in current detection protocols. “Months pass before a real analysis in completed. And the process requires complicated and expensive equipment such as CT and mammography imaging devices. Each machine costs millions of dollars, and ends up delivering rough, inaccurate results.”

Dr. Hossam Haick (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Dr. Hossam Haick (Photo credit: Courtesy)

 

The NaNose-based system, on the other hand, doesn’t require anything more than a patient’s breathing into the device in order to come up with an initial diagnosis. Lung cancer tumors produce chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which easily evaporate into the air and produce a discernible scent profile. Haick’s NaNose chip detects the unique “signature” of VOCs in exhaled breath. In four out of five cases, the device differentiated between benign and malignant lung lesions and even different cancer subtypes.

The project is being funded by the European Commission, which has given the consortium developing it a six million euro grant. The developers include universities and research institutes from Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland and Latvia, as well as Irish cell biology research firm Cellix, with the NaNose system the centerpiece of the technology. That Israeli-developed component will be delivered by an Israeli start-up called NanoVation-GS, a spinoff of the Technion. Professor Haick serves as the start-up’s Chief Science Officer.

“The SniffPhone is a winning solution. It will be made tinier and cheaper than disease detection solutions currently, consume little power, and most importantly, it will enable immediate and early diagnosis that is both accurate and non-invasive,” said Haick. “Early diagnosis can save lives, particularly in life-threatening diseases such as cancer.”

 

Nanotech Drug Delivery Method For Cancer Could Replace Conventional Chemotherapy

By NoCamels Team March 03, 2015 5 Comments

at http://nocamels.com/2015/03/nanotech-drug-delivery-method-cancer-replace-chemotherapy-eliminate-side-effects/

Anyone who knows a person in the midst of chemotherapy is aware that anti-cancer drugs often take a very harsh toll on the body. This is one reason scientists have been trying to develop improved means of drug delivery for years. Now, a Technion research team discovered a way to improve drug delivery to tumors using Nanostructured Porous Silicon (PSi) particles (instead of an IV drip), a method that’s emerging as a promising new platform for drug delivery. In the future, PSi could be used in cancer treatments, potentially offering an alternative to traditional chemotherapy, which is notorious for its agonizing side effects.

The silicon “carriers” used in this study to deliver chemotherapy drugs behave differently in cancerous tumors than they do in healthy tissues. Therefore, the findings could help scientists to design nano-carriers that deliver drugs to tumors, instead of treating patients with traditional, intravenous chemotherapy. However, it would take years to develop and apply this new type of drug delivery method, which would potentially be taken orally.

     SEE ALSO: Study: How To Make Chemotherapy Side-Effects Less Deadly

So far, these nano-silicon “containers” have been studied in vitro – outside of a living organism – rather than in an environment that behaves more closely to that of a tumor in a cancer patient’s body. The Technion research team looked at what happens to PSi particles when they’re injected into the area around the tumor in mice. The significant differences in the area around a cancerous growth and regular healthy tissue have been widely described and studied; however, the effect on these porous silicon “containers,” or carriers, was unknown until now.

Prof. Ester Segal of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who led this joint study with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Harvard Medical School, said the team has “shown for the first time that bio-materials in general, and Nanostructured Porous Silicon in particular, behave differently when they are injected (or implanted) at the tumor micro-environment.”

Revolutionizing cancer treatments

Silicon materials could revolutionize treatments in a way that no existing drug delivery does. Prof. Segal tells NoCamels that the silicon containers “could deliver drugs over a long period of time – weeks or even months”, something no existing chemotherapeutic delivery mechanism can do currently.

cancer cells

Cancer cells

The special properties of these porous nano-silicon carriers lie in their large surface area, which can ferry many or large drug molecules. Additionally, due to their biodegradability they’re able to break down into harmless silicic acid, which is expelled through urination. They are also biocompatible, so they do not stimulate any inflammation or clotting. Another benefit to these nano-silicon containers is their versatility. They can be ingested, injected or implanted, and they can be designed to carry a wide range of dosage sizes. In the process of their study, lab members also developed an approach to determining how biomaterials will react in settings more similar to their eventual clinical purpose – treating cancer, for example.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Create ‘Trojan Horse’ Of Chemotherapy

In a separate study, Tel Aviv University scientists recently found a strategy that would stop brain tumor cell proliferation with similar nano-particles. “It is a basic, elegant mechanism and much less toxic than chemotherapy,” TAU’s Prof. Dan Peer said in a statement.

These works underline the importance of such studies in successfully developing bio-delivery materials that will have therapeutic benefits in the near future.

The ‘Magic Bullet’ of Chemotherapy

http://www.technion.ac.il/en/2015/03/the-magic-bullet-of-chemotherapy/

“Nano-skeletons’ (in red) delivered to human tissue infected by prostate cancer. The infected cells are colored in blue (PIP) and green (cytoplasmic); it is possible to see how the ‘nano-skeletons’ reach them

“Nano-skeletons’ (in red) delivered to human tissue infected by prostate cancer. The infected cells are colored in blue (PIP) and green (cytoplasmic); it is possible to see how the ‘nano-skeletons’ reach them

Florida native Dr. Beth Schoen, is part of a team developing a novel platform for delivering anti-cancerous drugs directly to its mark as part of her postdoctoral research at the Technion

Beth Schoen, born in Hollywood Florida, came to the Technion to conduct her postdoctoral research at age 26. In her very limited spare time she plays soccer for the leading all women’s soccer team – Maccabi Hadera – and studies Hebrew. “The Hebrew thing is no simple matter,” she confesses, “but I’m willing to make the effort, because it’s clear to me that Israel is where I want to live.”

Dr. Beth Schoen completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, and her doctorate at Michigan State University in chemical engineering. “My doctoral studies focused on synthetic organic chemistry, particularly on the development of polymers with unique thermodynamic attributes especially resistant to high temperatures. These types of materials are used in part for the production of jet engine parts, body armor and Nomex (used for making fire-resistant gloves and overalls). One of our tasks was to create soft sheets that were not brittle, to be worn to be both bulletproof and fire resistant. It was a theoretical study, but as part of the process I also produced some of these polymers and tested them.”

Dr. Schoen planned to come to the Technion as part of her doctoral studies, but, she adds, “It didn’t work out, so I started to check where I could best fit in here in my future studies.” She decided to join Prof. Marcelle Machluf’s laboratory, at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, “I was eager to move from chemistry to biology and pursue cancer research in particular. I was very glad for the tremendous opportunity that Marcelle gave me in taking me on – perhaps it was because of my experience in nanomaterials and polymers.”

Prof. Marcelle Machluf’s research team consists of 17 female and 3 males students, researchers and technicians working on two main projects: (1) the development of scaffolds to rehabilitate damaged heart-tissue, and (2) the development of new technology to deliver drug treatment to damaged (sick) tissue (specifically related to cancer therapy). In an interview with her she focused on the second project.

“The current treatment for cancer involves radiotherapy and chemotherapy usually administered through intravenous infusion. The cancer drugs available are extremely effective, yet the way they are put to use in present day treatment, they also cause damage to healthy tissues. These are very potent drugs – they are intended to kill cancer cells – and on their way they also end up killing healthy ones.”

“The greatest damage is caused to rapidly dividing cells, which are similar to cancer cells. Hair follicle cells, for example, are a type of rapidly dividing cells and they damage easily from these types of treatment, which explains the hair loss in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Other side-effects include nausea and hearing loss, sometimes even leading to deafness. The drug Cisplatin for example, is a type of chemo drug used to treat various types of lung and breast cancers; some of its side-effects include damage to renal and immune system functioning, putting patients at risk to infections and diseases.”

These impediments are what fuel Prof. Machluf’s drive to develop a new drug delivery platforms capable of delivering anti-cancer drugs directly to the tumor without damaging healthy tissues on its way. “This is the top priority of cancer treatment: to develop a ‘magic bullet’ that target cancer cells,” explains Prof. Machluf. “And our new platform may be the solution to this great challenge.”

The new platform is based on ‘depleting’ specific cells – mesenchymal stem cells – so that there is nothing left of them save for the membrane. This membrane, called a ghost cells can be down sized to nano-vesicles, termed nano-ghosts, which can be loaded with any drug and delivered by injection directly into the blood stream. The immune system falls for the trap and does not recognize the ‘intruder,’ instead it treats these cells as if they were naturally part of the system and sends them to the afflicted area. On the way to their target they do not release the drug they are carrying and therefore do not do any damage to healthy tissues. Only upon reaching the malignant tissue, which they know how to identify, do they break down and secrete their contents at the site of the tumor cells.

This original idea was tested in a long series of experiments, and the results are very impressive: these nano-ghosts are in fact tumor selective, no matter the type of tumor. They ‘dash’ straight to the malignant tissue without emitting their drug on the way and without damaging healthy cells. Moreover, this unique ‘parcel’ increases the effectiveness of the treatment by ten-fold. Animal studies have shown that the employment of nano-ghosts for anti-cancer drug delivery have led to an 80% delay of prostate cancer – an unprecedented rate.

Still, there is a lot of work ahead, as Prof. Machluf’s research team works on improving the mechanism of this novel new platform: some of them are focusing on compatibility with specific drugs while others, like Dr. Beth Schoen, are concentrating on improving the nano-ghosts “This platform must be very precise,” explains Schoen. “It must be able to endure travelling through the entire human body, and release its contents only inside the tumor.”

The research is being carried out in collaboration with the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute.

For a Full Report From the President of Technion on all Innovations Occurring at Technion during 2015 please click below

http://pard.technion.ac.il/view-the-report/

Other Resources

http://www.technioncancer.co.il/ResearchGroups.php
http://www.ats.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_research_cancer
http://www.technioncancer.co.il/lab.php?id=3

http://www.rappaport.org.il/Rappaport/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&TMID=610&FID=77&PID=0&IID=1268 

Governor Cuomo Delivers Remarks at Zuckerman Scholars Program in STEM Leadership

Other related articles on Cancer Research @Technion were published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal, including the following:

Medical Breakthrough: Israeli Researcher Predicts Where Cancer Will Spread

Pancreatic Cancer at the Crossroads of Metabolism

Next-generation Universal Cell Immunotherapy startup Adicet Bio, Menlo Park, CA is launched with $51M Funding by OrbiMed

Solutions for Multiple Myeloma – a cancer formed by Malignant Plasma Cells: Collaboration of NYU and Technion Integrative Cancer Center

List of Breakthroughs in Cancer Research and Oncology Drug Development by Awardees of The Israel Cancer Research Fund

Biomarkers of Cancer detected by BreathAnalyzer – An Collaborative effort of three Universities

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Meeting Announcement: Pharmaceutical Consultant Consortium International Announces Presentation by ViFant and Penn Center For Innovation

As announced on the PCCI website:

PCCI invites you to attend a presentation by:

VIFANT (Penn Center for Innovation)

Monday, November 9, 2015, 6:30PM; at the Chesterbrook (Wayne, PA) Embassy Suites Hotel (directions below)

Sponsored by:

To register please click on www.rxpcci.com and follow directions

Vifant is committed to delivering innovative, cost-effective, mobile solutions for the early identification of vision impairment in verbal, non-verbal and pre-verbal patients as young as two months of age.

Early detection of vision problems improves treatment outcome, simplifies treatment and may prevent irreversible neurological damage and blindness. Accurate vision testing in pre-verbal and non-verbal patients is an unmet goal of pediatricians, family doctors, ophthalmologists, early education programs and parents who are interested in discovering vision programs in infants and children as early as possible in order to optimize vision outcomes. Unfortunately, only one-third of all children in the US have had a vision screening test or visual examination prior to entering school as  existing early childhood screening devices detect only risk factors with high false-positive and false-negative rates.

Vifant’s vision acuity test app uses the established principle of optcokinetic nystagmus (OKN) which is the eyes’ reflexive, spontaneous  response to moving patterns that does not need to be instructed or learned. The app is downloaded to a mobile tablet form and the tablet’s front-facing camera and screen provide stimulus and detection of eye movement to allow for identification of the eyes’ response to moving targets. The Vifant vision acuity test is patent protected and is reimbursable under the existing CPT code 99174. In addition to conventional points of service, Vifant’s mobility and ease of use fit well in a telemedicine strategy broadening the patient pool that will benefit from the test.

PROGRAM

6:30: Cocktails and Dinner; there will be a cash bar and a special two-entrée buffet

8:30 Beth DeSouza, CEO, will deliver the Company”s “Elevator” pitch to the group.

8:20: A panel will address three major issues crucial to helping the Company reach the next level. Vifant has submitted the following questions:

  1. Reimbursement challenges and opportunities:Does return on investment on early detection and intervention for a large number of patients outweigh costly treatments later from the payers perspectives and therefore warrant coverage in health plans? What is the role of consumers (parents, caretakers) as payers.
  2. Business model: Subscription fee per HCP or fee per test? Is there a play for remote result interpretation (telemedicine) right away or should it wait?
  3. Competitive landscape: What will be the competitors’ response to Vifant’s entry into the pediatric vision screening space.

 9:00: Q&A session

Remember to register: click on www.rxpcci.com and follow directions

Dinner price for members is a flat $40; Parking is free!

Lifetime dues for new members are still $100; join PCCI and your first dinner will be ON US!

Bring a friend and/or a business colleague! You know that our meetings a livelier and more interesting than ever.

The Embassy Suites Hotel provides an excellent facility, more room and a fine menu.

Every PCCI meeting is webcast. The webcast recording of the PCCI meetings will be posted on the PCCI website “rxpcci.com” and webcast live via the internet during the event.

Directions: Take Rt 202 to the Chesterbrook exit (that’s two exits South of the Devon exit), turn Right at the end of the Exit ramp and you’ll see the hotel at your Right. If you are going North on 202, get off at the Chesterbrook Exit and turn Left at the traffic light and drive back over Rt 202. You’ll see the hotel at your Right. Proceed to the traffic light and turn Right into the parking lot of the hotel. Their phone is: 610 647 6700.

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4:00PM 11/12/2014 – 10th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference at the Harvard Medical School, Boston

REAL TIME Coverage of this Conference by Dr. Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN – Director and Founder of LEADERS in PHARMACEUTICAL BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, Boston http://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com

4:00 p.m. Panel Discussion Novel Approaches to Personalized Medicine

Novel Approaches to Personalized Medicine

Genetic and genomic knowledge is helping the development of new drugs, therapies and prognostic tests. As a result, there are new approaches, new partnerships and new business models that are emerging. In some cases, diseases that were considered incurable not too long ago are now being tackled with highly targeted therapies. In other cases the uncertainties associated with assessing potential aggressiveness of disease are being eliminated. This panel will provide examples of new business paradigms that are emerging from the application of personalized medicine.

Novel Approaches to Personalized Medicine

Moderator:

Meghan FitzGerald, Ph.D. @cardinalhealth
President, Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions

Chief Genome Officer – next steps in companies, Genomics Index will replace the Biotech Index

Most Interesting person in Genomics: Marc Levin,

Panelists:

2. Chris Garabedian @Sarepta
President and CEO, Sarepta

  • Applications of genomics to Infectious diseases, therapeutics – design of drugs, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)
  • technology safe working, one drug very effective, 60 alternative drugs, not enough patients to power clinical trials

 

4. Shawn Marcell
President & CEO, Metamark Genetics

  • Prostatic Cancer – Use of genomics tools to diagnose and treat Prostate cancer
  • US market is the best for Genomics innovations because venture capital Market is mature, FDA is negotiable, CMP well established
  • Business model: platform, good test big market, commercialize, clinical data — PM has a different Business model: Delivery of Test results need to be different
  • IPO 2016

 

1. Scott Schell, M.D., Ph.D. – surgical oncology @KEWGroup
President and CEO, KEW Group

  • Large scale platform, strategic partnerships with Oncology Practices,
  • Immuno oncologists, repository of data
  • 80% of cancers are treated in the community 20% at Academic centers. Integration of knowledge, patients wish to stay in the community
  • phase I approval at record high levels

3. Gabriel Bien-Willner, M.D., Ph.D. @MolecularHealth
Medical Director, MolecularHealth, Inc.

  • Diagnostics Tools in Analytics. Clinicians do not have the training in Genomics – position firm to create Lab reports and consulting MDs using Analytics for Clinicians

 

 

– See more at: http://personalizedmedicine.partners.org/Education/Personalized-Medicine-Conference/Program.aspx#sthash.qGbGZXXf.dpuf

@HarvardPMConf

#PMConf

@SachsAssociates

@cardinalhealth

@Sarepta

@KEWGroup

@MolecularHealth

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