MIPS Projects Take On Cancer

By Martha Connolly

Mtech’s Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program is working to fuel the innovation economy in Maryland. We’re enhancing health care while we’re at it by funding promising new products in the area of cancer diagnosis and treatment.  If these projects are successful, you’ll see new technologies and new jobs in Maryland and a healthier population, here and in the world.

A&G Pharmaceuticals (Columbia, Md.) is working with Dr. Katherine Tkaczuk from the Department of Medicine and Oncology in the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore to study a novel breast cancer marker (GP88) that could be used for the early detection of breast cancer using a simple blood test. By correlating GP88 serum levels with information on the stage of disease, therapy response and survival, they hope to establish the usefulness of their GP88 blood test to detect the disease and to monitor response to therapy disease progression and recurrence in breast cancer patients, providing a much needed boost to the detection of breast cancer.

Comprehensive Cancer Cells Diagnostics LLC (Baltimore, Md.) is a diagnostic service company developing technology to assist physicians in designing personalized treatment regimens for patients fighting cancer. They are working with Dr. Katherine Tkaczuk from the Department of Medicine and Oncology in the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore to establish the Drug Response Indicator Test (DRIT) as the foundation of personalized anticancer chemotherapy. The drug response test can predict the sensitivity or resistance of the tumor to several FDA-approved drugs for patients with advanced-stage breast, lung, and GI cancers. The goal is to make sure that patients will be treated only with drugs that are effective for their particular cancers.

Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Rockville, Md.) is working with Dr. Anjan Nan from the Center for Nanomedicine and Cellular Delivery at University of Maryland, Baltimore to develop a novel targeted cancer therapy.  Using a water-soluble, polymeric carrier attached to anticancer drugs, the treatment can be localized in the area of the tumor. Then, cancer cells engulf the polymer-drug conjugate, cleave the bond between the drug and the polymer and release the drug inside the tumor cells to kill the cancer cells. By selectively targeting cancer drugs to tumor cells, there will be a lower toxicity of these drugs to patients and increased effectiveness in treating cancer.

Xcision Medical Systems (Columbia, Md.) was founded by Dr. Cedric Yu, a scientist and entrepreneur at the University of Maryland Baltimore, who invented a radiosurgery device for breast cancer called GammaPod. GammaPod uses tens of thousands of radiation beams to focus radiation at a tumor to kill tumor cells and reduce the average treatment length from three months to three hour-long, non-invasive procedures. Xcision has further developed the GammaPod system and shown the feasibility based on calculations and measurements. Working with Dr. Steven Feigenberg of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Baltimore, this project aims to test the clinical feasibility of GammaPod for use in breast cancer patients. Successful completion of the proposed research will potentially revolutionize breast cancer care.

Amplimmune (Rockville, Md.) is developing a novel therapeutic drug for the treatment of cancer and chronic infections. The company’s drug, AMP-224, works to allow the immune system to fight successfully against cancer and chronic infections. Amplimmune is working with Dr. Dean Mann of the Department of Clinical Pathology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, to assess the ability of AMP-224 to stimulate the human immune system. The goals of the collaboration are to measure the activity of AMP-224 on human immune cells and to determine what types of immune responses are enhanced by AMP-224.  This project is a key step in proceeding towards human clinical trials.

Assay Biomarker (Baltimore, Md.)  was founded by Dr. Bingren Hu, a scientist and entrepreneur at the University of Maryland, Baltimore who discovered a method to make glycoform-specific antibodies for detecting cancer biomarkers. These cancer-specific proteins are in high market demand for research, diagnostic, and therapeutic applications. Glycoform-specific antibodies are extremely difficult to make and thus they are not currently available. To meet with this unmet market need, Assay Biomarker has developed a proprietary technology for making glycoform-specific antibodies. The company’s MIPS project will use this technology to make antibodies for developing cancer biomarker assays and selling them directly to research institutions, as well as diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies. These new tools will help researchers discover new treatments for cancer.

MIPS is addressing some of the most critical problems in today’s complex world. These MIPS projects we’re funding all have the potential to lead to new products, create jobs, and enhance health in Maryland and beyond.  Check on our progress to see which of these projects will change Maryland for the better.  The results: better products, better cancer diagnosis and treatment, and a better economy in Maryland.

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