NanoRED directs cancer drugs to tumors

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Credit Lila Aryan Photography

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm


Location: Medical College of Wisconsin
Founder: Johnathan Ebben, Gang Xin, Karthika Divakaran, Pradeep Kannampalli and Ranjit Verma.
Founded: 2015
Product: Cancer therapeutics delivery platform
Employees: Three
Goal: Get the product to patients

Experience: Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in chemistry, immunology, oncology,
pharmacology and toxicology at MCW, Blood Center of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When doctors are treating cancer, it can be difficult to get medication to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. A Wauwatosa startup is working to address this problem by using IR-triggered liposomes to deliver cancer therapeutics directly to tumors.

Gang Xin and Johnathan Ebben in the lab. (Lila Aryan Photography)

Led by Johnathan Ebben, an M.D./Ph.D. student in pharmacology and toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Gang Xin, a post-doctoral fellow in immunology at the Blood Center of Wisconsin’s Blood Research Institute, the company was formed after a group of students and post-doctoral fellows joined forces to participate in the National Cancer Institute and the Center for Advancing Innovation’s Nanotechnology Startup Challenge in Cancer.

Using an NCI platform, NanoRED has developed a unique application and is bringing it through pre-clinical experiments. The goal is to advance it to clinical trials in about three years, Ebben said, but first they must demonstrate how the toxicity is metabolized in the body.

“All of the targeted molecular therapies that exist right now aren’t effective,” Ebben said. “This technology leapfrogs all of that because we can directly release many different drugs right where we want it in the tumor microenvironment.”

NanoRED won the Life Sciences category in the 2017 Governor’s Business Plan Contest, and has also participated in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s I-Corps program, both of which provided the grant funding, business services and mentorship that have so far supported the company. Xin and Ebben plan to apply for a federal SBIR/STTR grant within the next year.

NanoRED coordinates with investigators, primarily research scientist Amit Joshi, at MCW to design the experiments to test its platform.

The fastest way to get to clinical trials is probably by licensing each molecular entity to a few different pharmaceutical groups, Ebben said.

“Once we can show that we can deliver a molecule to a tumor without affecting the rest of the body, it’s a way for us to potentially collaborate with a lot of different people to advance many different therapies,” he said.

“We both have family members suffering from cancer, terminal stage,” Xin said. “We really want this thing to go to market as soon as possible.” 

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