Research Funding

Research Funding

The Austin-based Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Aug. 21 awarded 71 new grants totaling close to $136 million to advance the fight against cancer.

That included 58 academic research grant awards, 10 prevention awards, and three product development research awards, CPRIT said in a news release.

A Texas Company Product Development Research Award totaling $15,427,699 went to OncoNano Medicine Inc. and Ravi Srinivasan, OncoNano’s co-founder and CEO, of the TechFW client, for research into development of tumor specific T-cell activating cancer vaccines for immunotherapy of solid tumors including HPV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says HPV – human papillomavirus – is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are vaccines available to deal with the disease. Some forms of HPV can lead to cancer.

In a separate news release, OncoNano Medicine said the grant will advance ONM-500, one of OncoNano’s innovative oncology product candidates.

In ONM- 500, OncoNano leverages its proprietary pH-sensitive micelle technology to deliver antigens while activating innate immunity for the treatment of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

This grant award adds to an initial $6 million grant that the company received from CPRIT in 2014 for advancement of the company’s ONM-100, where OncoNano’s micelle technology is being used to intraoperatively image tumors during surgical resection, currently in Phase 2 clinical trials, the company said/ “We are excited to be awarded this impactful grant and are extremely grateful to CPRIT for their continued recognition and support of the development of OncoNano’s technology platform for identifying and treating cancer in its various forms,” says Ravi Srinivasan, Ph.D., CEO of OncoNano Medicine.

“Our pH-sensitive micelle approach to cancer therapy with ONM- 500 and our other product candidates have the potential to meaningfully advance cancer- specific targeting and administration,” he said.

In part utilizing CPRIT-funded technology first invented at UT Southwestern Medical Center, ONM-500 combines contemporary advances in immunoadjuvant therapy with OncoNano’s proprietary pH-sensitive micelle delivery technology to recruit the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.

An HPV tumor-specific antigen is packaged into immune-activating micelles that, when injected, accumulate in the lymph nodes and are endocytosed by dendritic cells. The relatively lower pH of intracellular endosomes causes the micelles to dissociate, resulting in the intracellular release of the antigen, activation of STING (STimulator of INterferon Genes) and subsequent activation of the body’s own T-cells directed at the tumor.

With this grant, OncoNano will continue advancing ONM-500 through pre-clinical development towards the clinical stage where there is a substantial unmet patient need for therapies to treat cancers caused by HPV, the company said.

“This award emphasizes CPRIT’s priority of investing in early translational research into cancer detection, prevention, and treatment. OncoNano’s technologies have significant potential for breakthroughs in cancer detection and treatment,” said Wayne Roberts, CEO of CPRIT. “Nurturing projects like OncoNano’s will continue to make Texas a hub for scientific advancement and innovation. I look forward to OncoNano’s progress as they take their technologies through development.”

OncoNano Medicine Inc. announced in 2018 that it had closed $11.7 million in Series A financing arranged by Salem Partners, who also participated as a principal investor.

“CPRIT’s priorities of pediatric cancer research and cancers of significance to Texans highlight this large slate of awards,” Roberts said. “Investments are made across the cancer research and prevention continuum in Texas unlike any other state in the country.”

Nine of the grants address childhood cancers, including six academic research grants for brain cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma, and leukemia and lymphoma. Several prevention grants address HPV in adolescents and provide vaccinations.

The news release said 12 percent of CPRIT’s portfolio goes to childhood cancer research – proportionately 3 times more than the national commitment.

The first ever awards were made for CPRIT’s “Collaborative Action Program for Liver Cancer” (CAP), a new statewide initiative investing up to $18 million to reverse the rising rates of liver cancer.

The announcement said one of the investigator-initiated awards associated with the CAP is for research into the increased incidence, disparities and risk factors of hepatocellular cancer. Texans of Hispanic ethnicity living along the U.S.-Mexico border have more than twice the incidence rate of liver cancer than non-Hispanic whites.

Fifteen recruitment grants went to Texas institutions, a mechanism that serves as an important tool for attracting the best minds in cancer research to the state. In addition, one company will relocate to Texas to continue their work in product development. CPRIT has now brought 181 scholars and 13 companies to Texas.

RECRUITMENT OF FIRST-TIME, TENURE-TRACK FACULTY MEMBERS AWARDS

Total: $27,669,997. Among them:

Piya Ghose, Ph.D.: Recruitment to The University of Texas at Arlington from The Rockefeller University – $2,000,000 Gerta Hoxhaj, Ph.D.: Recruitment to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – $2,000,000 Benjamin Sabari, Ph.D.:Recruitment to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – $2,000,000 Anju Sreelatha, Ph.D.: Recruitment to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center – $2,000,000 Jian Zhou, Ph.D.: Recruitment to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from Simons Foundation – $2,000,000

(Note: Recruitment grants awarded indicate only approval to negotiate offers; at the time of release candidates have not accepted offers.) OTHER AWARDS/GRANTS:

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Defining and enabling delivery of microRNA and CRISPR therapeutics for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (Daniel J. Siegwart) – $900,000 Structure-based Drug Design of Inhibitors for a Breast Cancer Signature Kinase (Elizabeth J. Goldsmith) – $900,000 The role of ZMYND8 in breast cancer stem cells and tumor progression (Weibo Luo) – $900,000 Role of the N6-methyladenosine (m6A) writer METTL3/METTL14 in cancer (Yunsun Nam) – $900,000 Biochemical and Genetic Interrogation of EWSR1-FLI1 in Ewing Sarcoma (David G. McFadden) – $1,200,000 Dissecting cellular heterogeneity of bulk tumors for prediction of overall survival and responsive patients to immunotherapy (Tao Wang) – $900,000 Development of an antibody targeting PCDH7 for lung cancer therapy (Kathryn A. O’Donnell) – $1,999,998 The University of Texas at Dallas Smart Surgical Microscope Powered by AI Technology and Hyperspectral Imaging (Baowei Fei) – $1,592,405 HIGH IMPACT HIGH RISK AWARD Eighteen grants totaling $3,597,195 Among them:

The University of Texas at Arlington

Radioactive Nanoseeds for Eradicating Glioblastoma without Crossing Blood-Brain Barrier (Yaowu Hao) – $198,039 The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Therapeutic Targeting of EWS-FLI1 Turnover in Ewing Sarcoma (Ralf Kittler) – $200,000

– FWBP Staff

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