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AvroBio Develop Transformative Gene Therapies For Rare Diseases And Cancer

AvroBio Develop Transformative Gene Therapies For Rare Diseases And Cancer
Gene therapy has made important medical advances in recent years. Within a relatively short time span, it has moved from the conceptual stage to technology development and laboratory research to clinical translational trials for a variety of deadly diseases. Although controversial, gene therapy is poised to become a viable option for a variety of often life-threatening medical conditions. It could potentially cure illnesses with a single treatment by altering the underlying cause of disease, defective genes.
The Cambridge, MA.-based clinical-stage startup AvroBio is developing transformative, life-changing therapies for rare diseases and cancer by genetically modifying a patient’s own cells and infuse these back into the patient. Their first program, AVR-01, is an immunotherapy approach to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). They extract the patient’s cancer cells, and modifies it to express a powerful immune signaling agent. When transferred back into the patient, they activate T cells to attack the remaining cancer in the body.
The startup’s second program, AVR-02, is targeted at Fabry disease, a rare inherited disorder that results from the buildup of a particular type of fat in the body’s cells. Patient’s cells are genetically modified to add a functional copy of the faulty gene that causes the disease, expressing an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase when infused back into the patient.
Gene therapies represent a new paradigm in human health, with the potential to deliver dramatic disease-modifying effects with long-lasting and durable impact. This is especially true for 95% of rare diseases, which still have no approved treatment. AvroBio’s highly innovative therapies offer potentially life-altering impact following a single infusion, changing the lives of people worldwide who so far have very few treatment options. For Fabry patients for example, this could mean no more frequent trips to infusion centers, significantly improving quality of life. However, it is still early, and both treatments are currently in Phase 1 trials.
AvroBio was formally launched in February 2016, and in August announced they had raised $25 million in a Series A financing co-led by Atlas Venture, Clarus and SV Life Sciences. The funding will be used to accelerate the development of its programs in Fabry disease and AML, and to expand their pipeline in both rare diseases and solid and liquid cancers.

Molecular Stethoscope Develop Novel Blood Tests To Detect And Monitor Organ Damage

Molecular Stethoscope Develop Novel Blood Tests To Detect And Monitor Organ Damage
Blood tests are a vital part of the diagnostic process, helping physicians make the correct diagnosis and determine the appropriate course of treatment. In fact, about 50% of the information in the average medical chart comes from laboratory data, and blood tests inform approximately 70% of medical decisions. Thanks to major technological advances and a better understanding of what goes wrong at the molecular level when we get sick, the number of blood-detectable conditions are exploding.

The San Diego-based startup Molecular Stethoscope is developing a blood-based early detection and disease-monitoring test. Their proprietary technology utilizes circulating cell-free RNA in blood to monitor organ damage. The startup has measured RNA levels from many healthy individuals, and has established baseline levels of tissue-specific RNA. Deviations from these levels can indicate organ-specific disease, providing a real-time “snapshot” of organ health and allowing for a rapid, accurate, and non-invasive evaluation of healthy and diseased states.

The company’s test target a multibillion dollar market and could potentially revolutionize diagnosis and drug development for a variety of diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, liver diseases, coronary artery disease and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Through earlier disease detection and intervention the startup aim to decrease healthcare costs, and could have a major effect in changing the everyday life of patients worldwide. They are specifically targeting diseases with critical need of better diagnostic tools and where early detection could be the difference between life and death. By potentially monitoring these diseases, they are turned into manageable chronic diseases that could give rise to new treatment options and strategies that significantly improve quality of life.

The promising startup was co-founded by Stephen Quake and Eric Topol, two of the biggest contributors to the science behind circulating cell-free RNA-based diagnostics. Stephen Quake has received numerous international awards and has founded several companies, including Fluidigm, Helicos Biosciences, Verinata Health, Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, Moleculo Cellular Research and Immumetrix. Eric Topol is the Director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, and was voted the #1 Most Influential Physician Executive in the US in 2012 in a poll conducted by Modern Healthcare. He is editor-in-chief of Medscape and theheart.org, and has published books that explore how technology democratize healthcare.

Molecular Stethoscope earlier in 2016 announced a collaboration with 23 US medical and academic institutions, and received more than 700 serum and plasma samples from their partners to continue validating the innovative diagnostics approach. Samples from patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease will be used to provide insight into these diseases and how RNA change in response to treatment.

CNSDose Develop Genetic Test To Personalize Prescription Of AntiDepressants

CNSDose Develop Genetic Test To Personalize Prescription Of AntiDepressants
It is estimated that over 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, making it the most common mental disorder and leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, and in USA alone it costs about $210 billion annually. Despite only 50% of patients respond to first medication, and a minority of patients achieve full remission, there are effective treatments for depression. The suboptimal response to these therapies are thought to be a result of genetic variations, which has sparked the interest in the development of tools to guide prescription.
The Melbourne-based startup CNSDose is determined to change how antidepressants are prescribed to individuals by using a genomic test. The test is a simple saliva test that determine the individual’s ability to metabolize antidepressants, and the results are sent to the doctor with a report that include the guidance of appropriate medication and dosing suggestions. This tailored approach avoid the need for trial and error when prescribing antidepressants, and significantly improve the response rate. In fact, a randomized controlled trial of 148 patients with Major Depressive Disorders found a remission rate of 72% for genetically guided dosing, versus 28% for genetically unguided dosing.
Psychologist and pharmacogeneticist Dr Ajeet Singh founded the startup after coming across a patient who received numerous inaccurate doses for his depression. By the time the patient was referred to Dr Ajeet, he had lost his job, his marriage, and attempted suicide. This unique understanding and passion of improving how depression is treated around the world, coupled with an innovative product, could significantly improve outcomes for millions of people. The startup could potentially turn the treatment of depression on its head, moving it in a more patient-led and focused direction, avoiding the need for trial and error when prescribing antidepressants.
The innovative approach not only help guide prescription, but could play an important role in strengthening the doctor-patient relationship, not to mention increase access of care. This technology could greatly benefit patients in rural areas that have few specialists and psychiatrists, giving them fast, simple and tailored results, doubling the odds of recovery.
Early 2016, CNSDose closed a seed investment of about US$1 million from two angel investors, as well as welcoming former Australian trade minister Andrew Robb to its advisory board. They aim to use the money to finance a US trial launch in October 2016, before they embark on a large Series A round to fuel a global launch in 2017.

ImmuneXcite Develop An Innovative New Cancer Immunotherapy

The latest breakthrough in cancer treatment is in the field of immune-oncology. This form of treatment uses or enhances the patient’s own immune system to be able to stop the growth of cancer cells. While these therapies are promising, they traditionally only leverage the adaptive immune system and only work in a fraction of patients. Due to these limitations, many companies are now trying to draw out other members of the immune system to fight cancer.
The Lexington, MA-based startup ImmuneXcite is developing a very interesting approach that take advantage of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. They use a specific sugar called beta-1,6-glucan, a sugar normally found on the cell walls of fungi that attract neutrophils, a member of the innate immune system. The idea is to link this sugar to an antibody, which then would lead neutrophils to a tumor. Once activated, neutrophils help recruit other immune cells, including those of the adaptive immune system.
One potential advantage of the innovative technology is that the body might learn to remember a tumor, and continue to kill cancer cells, even after the drug is gone. The platform represents a fundamentally new approach in the growing field of cancer immunotherapy, as the field traditionally has focused on the adoptive immune system. Leveraging the power of the innate and adaptive immune system has shown promising results so far, and preclinical data has shown the platform mount an attack against treatment-resistant colorectal and breast cancer. In fact, the transformative approach could treat a wide range of solid and liquid tumors. And maybe most exciting, the targeted product may not require chronic administration. However, it is still very early and some work remains before it can be safely used in people, with the startup planning to begin its first clinical trial in 2018.
ImmuneXcite earlier 2016 raised $8.6 million in a Series A financing round, with investors including Cormorant Asset Management, Sanofi Genzyme BioVentures, and Partners Innovation Fund. The financing has seen the addition of Glaxo and Sanofi Genzyme veterans to its executive crew, and they plan to use the funding to complete studies that will them to choose a lead program to start clinical trials.

Seremedi Develop Innovative Software To Optimize Postoperative Care

Seremedi Develop Innovative Software To Optimize Postoperative Care
Postoperative care is important to optimize the outcome of the surgery and decreasing risk of complications. Hospitals face increased financial pressure, and discharging patients early help cut waiting lists and deliver healthcare more effectively and efficiently. Although studies suggest that prolonged hospital stays are associated with increased rates of complications, discharging patients early put more pressure on the patients and their caregivers to pursue optimal postoperative care. However, caregiver don’t have the expertise or trained eye to know when things are problematic until it could be too late, and health professionals have little knowledge of what happens between discharge and the standard follow-up appointment.

The startup Seremedi is determined to make the clinical and caregiving team work together to optimize postoperative care, and has developed a software package called CareScriptions. The software contains a library of procedures and how to best manage home care after a specific surgery, whether it is surgical oncology treatment, orthopedic surgery, or an organ transplant. Patients are trained in how to use the application, and are given a link to download the software to a personal device. The software include reminders to log vital statistics, take medications, etc., and give clinicians the opportunity to monitor the information and contact the patient via a web phone if irregularities are identified.

Seremedi was founded by Kim Bond Evans after her mother passed away due to complications after a routine back surgery. As she processed the loss of her mother, she took a technologist’s approach to understand what happened. She did research, interviewed doctors, and decided that the problem could be solved. She was determined to create a link between clinical staff and caregivers, and set out to develop the technology that could help prevent what happened to her mother.

The innovative telemedicine solution is based on an experience that unfortunately many have each year. How Kim Bond Evans turned this experience into a business idea is both admirable and inspirational, and has through this acquired a unique understanding of a growing problem in healthcare. Growing re-admission rates suggest a lack of appropriate coordination of post-discharge care, increasing the strain on the healthcare system. CareScriptions could significantly lower these rates, potentially saving hospitals millions. But most importantly, the solution put the patient in focus while giving clinicians accurate information on optimal postoperative measures even after patients are discharged, potentially helping thousands who are at risk of postoperative complications.

The software was launched in the fall 2015, and is currently being used by about 200 patients. The startup charges a $50,000 implementation fee and a per patient fee of $1,000 with volume discounts. They recently raised $1.7 million in seed funding from angel investors, and is planning to deploy their software to teaching hospitals at New York University and Ohio State University.

Eira Biotech Develop Nanocarriers To Deliver Drugs Past The Blood-Brain Barrier

Eira Biotech Develop Nanocarriers To Deliver Drugs Past The Blood-Brain Barrier
The blood-brain barrier is a network of blood vessels that allow the entry of essential nutrients while blocking other substances. Unfortunately, this barrier is so effective at protecting against foreign substances that it often prevents life-saving drugs. Despite extensive research efforts, an estimated 98 percent of potential drug treatments for brain disorders are unable to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. As a result, there are limited options for patients with brain tumors and other neurological diseases.
The Melbourne, Australia-based startup Eira Biotech is developing customizable nanocarriers to boost the efficacy of therapeutic biomolecules. They specialize in targeting difficult-to-reach biological sites, and are determined to pass the blood-brain barriers to deliver therapeutics. By engineering these nanocarriers, they can vary the amount of drug administered; protect it from difficult and harsh biological conditions, while at the same time exploit the specific characteristics of the targeted sites.
Despite some progress the last years in drug delivery through the blood brain barrier, it has been slow due to lack of funding and interest from the industry. Big pharma has been cautious, and are focusing on areas with greater chances of success. Eira Biotech’s innovative approach could revolutionize how we treat devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and brain cancers, allowing for smaller doses of existing therapeutics, reducing side effects, and lowering costs for patients. In addition, the startup’s nanocarriers could yield new therapeutics that benefit a wide range of diseases, also outside the brain.
While traditional big pharma is still cautious in trying new ways of getting past the blood-brain barrier, we see much of the innovation in this field coming from small companies like Eira Biotech. They have a determination and fearlessness that is near impossible to replicate in larger organizations. And although there are obvious risks associated with pursuing such programs, they could offer high returns if successful. Eira Biotech definitely have a huge potential, and their vision and technology could help millions of people worldwide who currently have very few treatment options.
The startup was part of Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) in 2015 and was a semi-finalist at OneStart 2016, the world’s largest life sciences and healthcare startup accelerator program.

Lyndra's Innovative Technology To Revolutionize How We Take Medicine

Lyndra's Innovative Technology To Revolutionize How We Take Medicine
Optimal healthcare outcomes often rely on adherence to recommended treatment regimens. Nonadherence is a threat to health and wellness, yet patient compliance is estimated to be approximately 50% in developed countries and even lower in the developing world. This carry a massive economic burden, and in USA alone economists estimate it to costs over $100 billion per year. To tackle this problem, scientists have been trying to develop extended drug release technology for over 30 years. Finding new and innovative solutions to extend delivery beyond the 12 to 24 hours of current oral formulations on the market could play an important role in the treatment of many diseases.
 
The Cambridge, MA-based startup Lyndra, comprised of MIT and Harvard scientists, has developed a technology that extends oral drug delivery beyond one week. The release formulation uses FDA-approved and inexpensive materials, that allow for the development of orally delivered capsules that can release drugs over a number of days, weeks, or potentially months following a single administration. The created polymer gel, that is elastic and can be folded into a capsule, is pH-responsive and stable in the acidic stomach environment. However, it dissolves in the small intestine’s near-neutral pH, allowing it to safely pass through the remainder of the gastrointestinal tract. In over 150 pig experiments, the technology has not shown any adverse events, no clinically apparent symptoms, and no visible mucosal injury on endoscopic evaluations.
 
The innovative new technology has a huge potential to improve adherence, improving pharmacokinetic profiles, and at the same time decrease potential of antibiotic resistance. The technology could even give better access to care, for example in rural areas, and a single-administration delivery system could benefit treatment of malaria and other diseases that often requires multiple drugs over long periods. The effect this could have on millions of people worldwide, and their everyday life, is staggering, and the technology is likely to significantly reduce billions of dollars each year associated with medication nonadherence.
 
Lyndra was founded by Robert Langer, Giovanni Traverso and Amy Schulman, and they are currently collaborating with leading pharmaceutical partners to develop extended release formulations of their products. The startup recently received $5.4 million in funding according to a regulatory filing, and the research behind the technology has been funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

KIT Develop Innovative Test To Monitor Rejection Of Kidney Transplants

KIT Develop Innovative Test To Monitor Rejection Of Kidney Transplants
Successful transplantation of human organs is one of the most dramatic achievements of modern medicine, much thanks to the development of immunosuppressants. Today it is estimated that over 70,000 kidney transplants are performed every year worldwide. However, despite immunosuppression medications, many patients will experience rejection. Monitoring and detecting these episodes of rejections is vital in order to make adjustments to medications, and extend the lifespan of the transplant.
 
Although some flu-like symptoms may occur, there are two widely used methods to detect injury. A blood test can monitor high creatinine levels, but by the time the test indicates a problem, it may be too late to save the organ. A faster and more direct approach is a biopsy, but this is costly, invasive and potentially risky.
 
The San Francisco-based startup KIT: Kidney Injury Test is developing a non-invasive, cost-effective, assay for kidney transplant rejection monitoring. The test is based on recent research that shows that DNA fragments from kidney cells damaged by rejection can be found in the urine of transplant patients. KIT’s assay is designed to bind with these cell-free DNA fragments, and the volume of bounded fragments indicate the degree of inflammation. The patient’s urine baseline is established right after the kidney transplant, and a routine monthly urine test can then monitor the health of the kidney and patient.
 
The innovative test will give physicians a clear window into how well they are controlling organ rejection. By looking at a patient’s specific trend over time, they can quickly intervene when significant changes are observed, extending the lifespan of the transplant. Most importantly, the inexpensive, easy-to-use test give a reliable method of measuring rejection, helping patients feel more at ease after a transplant.
 
The test was developed by a team of bioengineering students in the joint Berkeley-UCSF Masters of Translational Medicine program, Michael Nasr, Tyler Schmeckpeper and Josh Yang, together with UCSF’s Sarwal Lab and the Department of Surgery. The young innovators have identified a huge problem that many physicians face, and affect the lives of thousands of patients every year. This new test could not only improve the lifespan of the transplanted organs, but reducing a fear that these patients live with and improve their quality of life.

The exciting project has been recognized for its huge potential and was this year a semi-finalist at OneStart, the world’s largest life sciences and healthcare startup accelerator program. The program seek to dramatically improve human health and focus on cultivating early-stage entrepreneurship among young and disruptive healthcare innovators.
 

Brainshake Transform Healthcare With Blood Test That Measure Over 200 Biomarkers In Single Sample

Brainshake Transform Healthcare With Blood Test That Measure Over 200 Biomarkers In Single Sample
Approximately 70 percent of healthcare diagnostics is based on blood analysis. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of blood tests available. However, these commonly used tests provide limited information and lead to general population care and massive healthcare costs. Developing and introducing cutting-edge technology that not only reduce healthcare costs, but also enable preventive medicine is key to help doctors provide the best possible care more quickly and accurately.
 
The Finnish startup Brainshake is determined to bring extensive biological data to routine healthcare with the aim of replacing reactive healthcare and enable preventive medicine in chronic diseases. They have developed a technology that with a single blood test, fast, reliable and affordable is able to measure over 200 biomarkers associated with chronic diseases. Backed by scientific findings published in leading academic journals, these biomarkers include amino acids, glycolysis related metabolites, glycerides and phospholipids, cholesterol and fatty acids. They not only help diagnose and monitor diseases, but can profile and assess risk of diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
 
The innovative platform collect 50 times more data than current clinical lipid test and this extensive data is key to predict and prevent disease risk. This is a unique and unrivaled solution compared to other blood tests on the market, and the platform is designed to minimize manual labor, enabling speed, quality and scalability in a global scale. Combined with the affordability of the technology this platform could help increase access to healthcare around the world, leading the way to transform medicine.
 
Chronic diseases are now the major cause of death and disability worldwide, and seven of the top ten causes of death in 2010 were potentially preventable chronic diseases. Brainshake could play a major role in fighting these diseases, not only lowering costs of diagnosis, but be a frontrunner in the shift from reactive to preventive healthcare.
 
Brainshake is working closely with scientists to continuously create new scientific discoveries, and is already using the innovative platform and running analyses for leading universities and biobanks in Europe. They were also one of the first five startups to join StartUp Health Finland. The program include direct access to ongoing coaching and mentoring in Finland and the US, market access to key US and global healthcare stakeholders, including StartUp Health’s global network of 30,000 investors, customers and experts.

EnBiotix Revitalize Existing Antibiotics To Fight Drug-Resistant Bacterial Infections

EnBiotix Revitalize Existing Antibiotics To Fight Drug-Resistant Bacterial Infections
Drug-resistant bacteria threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections. Drug-resistance is present in all parts of the world and is a serious threat to global public health. In USA alone at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to first-line antibiotic treatments, costing the health system 20 billion USD annually. Today, more than 700 000 people die each year from drug-resistant bacterial infections, and unless action is taken, a report estimate that this number could balloon to 10 million each year by 2050, and cost a staggering 100 trillion USD.
 
The startup EnBiotix is determined to combat the global rise of drug-resistant bacterial infections. By combining synthetic and systems biology technologies developed by Prof. James J. Collins at MIT, they enable the development of both novel antibiotics and potentiators of existing antibiotics to transform and revitalize their spectrum of activity. The startups unique product pipeline target a wide range of acute and chronic infections, addressing a significant and growing need globally.
 
Currently, EnBiotix’s pipeline consists of three products; EBX-001, EBX-002 and EPP-001. EBX-001 combines tobramycin with a potentiator as a novel, inhaled investigational treatment for P. aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis (CF), non-CF bronchiectasis and COPD patients. With millions of patients potentially eligible for EBX-001 treatment worldwide, it not only has a multibillion dollar market potential, but a unique potential to reduce morbidity, mortality and treatment burden to both patients and their families. EBX-002 is also a potentiator that is administered in combination with a proprietary aminoglycoside for gram-negative catheter-associated urinary tract infections in hospital settings, affecting over 1 million globally and a market potential of nearly $1 billion. And lastly, EPP-001 is an engineered bacteriophage which will be developed in combination with standard antibiotic therapy for the treatment of prosthetic joint infections, a debilitating infection that is expected to grow dramatically with an aging population.
 
The startup is not afraid to take on the growing crisis of drug-resistant bacterial infections, a $40 billion market that has been attributed to the misuse of antibiotics, as well as a lack of new drug development by the pharmaceutical industry. EnBiotix could significantly reduce the costs associated with drug-resistant bacterial infection, estimated to be trillions of dollars by 2050. Most importantly, their pipeline address a wide range of infections, each with a huge potential of giving the lives back to millions of people globally who each day fight against these hard-to-treat infections.
 
In May 2016, EnBiotix announced the completion of a Series A financing, with investors including Wired Holdings Investment Corp. (WHICH), and Apeiron Holdings Limited (AHL). WHICH and EnBiotix will establish a new joint venture company in Brazil, with the purpose of developing and commercializing EnBiotix’s product portfolio throughout Latin America. The Latin American pharmaceutical market currently generates approximately $90 billion in revenues and is growing between 10 to 15 percent annually, and they aim to grow EnBiotix into a key market leader in this region.

Buddy Healthcare's Innovative Platform To Transform Pre- And Post-Surgery Care

Buddy Healthcare's Innovative Platform To Transform Pre- And Post-Surgery Care
Pre- and post-operative procedures are specifically designed to improve the outcome of surgery, decreasing the risk of complications, and make the surgery as safe and effective as possible. Proper pre-surgery preparation is vital for patient safety and quality of care, but many operations are canceled last minute due to lack of control or visibility over the preparation process. In addition, hospitals face financial pressure to reduce readmissions, but lack resources for monitoring patients’ recovery and identifying patients at risk. This not only increase the strain on the healthcare system, but could potentially put patients’ at risk.
 
The Finnish startup Buddy Healthcare is determined to transform pre- and post-surgery care, and have developed a platform that automates and monitors patients’ surgery preparation and recovery procedures. The digital health solution is designed especially for children’s hospitals to address the unique challenges of pediatrics, and not only improve patient experience, but also enables nurses and doctors to focus on the patients in need of attention.
 
The innovative platform give notifications and reminders on important activities, as well as access to care-related instruction videos from your doctor-in-charge. In addition, it also help manage and reschedule appointments, navigation to hospital, provide feedback on received care, and communicate with your hospital, including help you fill in pre-admission forms and other administrative documents. This improve patient experience and engage patients who spend less time within hospital walls, ultimately delivering a more efficient healthcare system and significant savings of hospital resources.
 
More importantly, the mobile health service give patients access to all care-related information and instructions from preparation to recovery, improving quality of care and potentially saving lives. The startup has identified a specific need in pediatrics, and have developed an innovative digital health solution that help patients and their families connect with hospitals more efficiently. And the data gathered, can be used for instant feedback and analyzed to develop better guidelines, use of hospital resources, and a better healthcare system.
 
Buddy Healthcare’s mobile health solution is developed together with four leading children’s hospitals in Finland and US, and is one of the first 5 startups to join StartUp Health Finland. The program include direct access to ongoing coaching and mentoring in Finland and the US, market access to key US and global healthcare stakeholders, including StartUp Health’s global network of 30,000 investors, customers and experts.

Scientists Develop Painless And Inexpensive Microneedle System To Monitor Drugs

Scientists Develop Painless And Inexpensive Microneedle System To Monitor Drugs
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) in Switzerland have created a microneedle drug monitoring system that could one day replace costly, invasive blood draws and improve patient comfort. The research was published in Scientific Reports.
 
The new system consists of a small, thin patch that is pressed against a patient's arm during medical treatment and measures drugs in their bloodstream painlessly without drawing any blood. The tiny needle-like projection, less than half a milimetre long, resembles a hollow cone and doesn't pierce the skin like a standard hypodermic needle.
 
"Many groups are researching microneedle technology for painless vaccines and drug delivery," said researcher Sahan Ranamukhaarachchi, a PhD student in UBC's faculties of applied science and pharmaceutical sciences, who developed this technology during a research exchange at PSI. "Using them to painlessly monitor drugs is a newer idea."
 
Microneedles are designed to puncture the outer layer of skin, which acts as a protective shield, but not the next layers of epidermis and the dermis, which house nerves, blood vessels and active immune cells.
 
The microneedle created by Ranamukhaarachchi and his colleagues was developed to monitor the antibiotic vancomycin, which is used to treat serious infections and is administered through an intravenous line. Patients taking the antibiotic undergo three to four blood draws per day and need to be closely monitored because vancomycin can cause life-threatening toxic side effects.
 
The researchers discovered that they could use the fluid found just below the outer layer of skin, instead of blood, to monitor levels of vancomycin in the bloodstream. The microneedle collects just a tiny bit of this fluid, less than a millionth of a millilitre, and a reaction occurs on the inside of the microneedle that researchers can detect using an optical sensor. This technique allows researchers to quickly and easily determine the concentration of vancomycin.
 
"This is probably one of the smallest probe volumes ever recorded for a medically relevant analysis," said Urs Hafeli, associate professor in UBC's faculty of pharmaceutical sciences.
 
"The combination of knowhow from UBC and PSI, bringing together microneedles, microfluidics, optics and biotechnology, allowed us to create such a device capable of both collecting the fluid and performing the analysis in one device," said Victor Cadarso, a research scientist and Ambizione Fellow at PSI.
 
Originally published by University of British Columbia.

LS CancerDiag Diagnose Lynch Syndrome To Reduce Cancer Mortality

LS CancerDiag Diagnose Lynch Syndrome To Reduce Cancer Mortality
Lynch Syndrome is an autosomal dominant mismatch repair deficiency, a disorder that increases the risk of a broad spectrum of tumors, including colorectal, ovarian, gastric, urinary, brain and bile duct cancers. It is estimated that up to 1/370 of the population have the disorder, and each year there are over 3.5 million new cancer cases related to Lynch. However, despite millions of people at severe risk of the disorder, current diagnostics tools are far from good enough, and heavily dependent on tumor studies.
 
The Finnish startup LS CancerDiag is determined to reduce cancer mortality, and has developed an innovative method called DiagMMR, the first functional test for diagnosis of inherited mismatch repair deficiency, including Lynch syndrome. The groundbreaking method is not only quantitative, but allow mutation carriers being diagnosed based on a non-invasive tissue sample before the person has developed a cancer, without the knowledge and details of an inherited mutation. The test is based on over 20 years of academic research at the University of Helsinki, where the development has been run by lead inventor Professor Minna Nyström.
 
The patented technology has several benefits compared to current options and can replace a large array of tests. It uses tissue samples before tumors appear, making it predictive instead of reactive as current tests. In addition, the quantitative nature of the test delivers results that are easy to interpret, and since the test cost less compared to others on the market, it could save healthcare costs on a global scale. LS CancerDiag is aiming to screen all newly diagnosed patients with cancers related to Lynch syndrome, as well as family members of positive cases. In addition, DiagMMR can be used in population screening programs, either in early adulthood or even at birth, to identify all the carriers of the syndrome.
 
Lynch syndrome associated cancer diagnostics market is valued at 35 billion USD, with an expected annual growth rate of 7.5 percent. LS CancerDiag is targeting to commercialize DiagMMR in 2017 and is expecting a wide market adaptation. The innovative non-invasive test dramatically simplify diagnostics of Lynch syndrome by delivering predictive and accurate results with a fast and cost-efficient method globally, enabling preventative care and most importantly save lives.
 
LS CancerDiag is one of the first 5 startups to join StartUp Health Finland. The program include direct access to ongoing coaching and mentoring in Finland and the US, market access to key US and global healthcare stakeholders, including StartUp Health’s global network of 30,000 investors, customers and experts.

World's First Widely Protective Vaccine Against Chlamydia

World's First Widely Protective Vaccine Against Chlamydia
The first steps towards developing a vaccine against an insidious sexual transmitted infection (STI) have been accomplished by researchers at McMaster University.
 
Researchers at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster have developed the first widely protective vaccine against chlamydia, a common STI that is mostly asymptomatic but impacts 113 million people around the world each year and can result in infertility.
 
In a study, recently published in the journal Vaccine, the researchers show that a novel chlamydial antigen known as BD584 is a potential vaccine candidate for the most common species of chlamydia known as Chlamydia trachomatis.
 
As most C. trachomatis infections are asymptomatic, chlamydia can often go untreated and lead to upper genital tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. This is why the promise of a vaccine would be extremely beneficial, says David Bulir, co-author of the study.
 
"Vaccine development efforts in the past three decades have been unproductive and there is no vaccine approved for use in humans," said Bulir, who just finished his PhD in medical sciences at McMaster.
 
"Vaccination would be the best way to way to prevent a chlamydia infection, and this study has identified important new antigens which could be used as part of a vaccine to prevent or eliminate the damaging reproductive consequences of untreated infections."
 
In the research team's study, BD584 was able to reduce chlamydial shedding - a symptom of C. trachomatis - by 95 per cent. The antigen also decreased hydrosalpinx, another C. trachomatis symptom which involves fallopian tubes being blocked with serous fluids, by 87.5 per cent.
 
The results look very promising, said senior author James Mahony, a professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine for McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and a researcher at St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton's Research Institute where the work was performed.
 
Co-author and McMaster PhD student, Steven Liang, explains, "not only is the vaccine effective, it also has the potential to be widely protective against all C. trachomatis strains, including those that cause trachoma."
 
Trachoma is an eye infection caused by chlamydia and is the leading cause of preventable blindness affecting millions of people in many resource-poor regions of the world.
 
"The vaccine would be administered through the nose. This is easy and painless and does not require highly trained health professionals to administer, and that makes it an inexpensive solution for developing nations," he said.
 
The next step is more testing for effectiveness against different strains of Chlamydia and in different formulations. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
 
Originally posted by McMaster University.

'Smart' Thread Collects Diagnostic Data When Sutured Into Tissue

'Smart' Thread Collects Diagnostic Data When Sutured Into Tissue
For the first time, researchers led by Tufts University engineers have integrated nano-scale sensors, electronics and microfluidics into threads - ranging from simple cotton to sophisticated synthetics - that can be sutured through multiple layers of tissue to gather diagnostic data wirelessly in real time, according to a paper published online July 18 in Microsystems & Nanoengineering. The research suggests that the thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems.
 
The researchers used a variety of conductive threads that were dipped in physical and chemical sensing compounds and connected to wireless electronic circuitry to create a flexible platform that they sutured into tissue in rats as well as in vitro. The threads collected data on tissue health (e.g. pressure, stress, strain and temperature), pH and glucose levels that can be used to determine such things as how a wound is healing, whether infection is emerging, or whether the body's chemistry is out of balance. The results were transmitted wirelessly to a cell phone and computer, and the three-dimensional platform is able to conform to complex structures such as organs, wounds or orthopedic implants.
 
While more study is needed in a number of areas, including investigation of long-term biocompatibility, researchers said initial results raise the possibility of optimizing patient-specific treatments.
 
"The ability to suture a thread-based diagnostic device intimately in a tissue or organ environment in three dimensions adds a unique feature that is not available with other flexible diagnostic platforms," said Sameer Sonkusale, Ph.D., corresponding author on the paper and director of the interdisciplinary Nano Lab in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tufts University's School of Engineering. "We think thread-based devices could potentially be used as smart sutures for surgical implants, smart bandages to monitor wound healing, or integrated with textile or fabric as personalized health monitors and point-of-care diagnostics."
 
Until now, the structure of substrates for implantable devices has essentially been two-dimensional, limiting their usefulness to flat tissue such as skin, according to the paper. Additionally, the materials in those substrates are expensive and require specialized processing.
 
"By contrast, thread is abundant, inexpensive, thin and flexible, and can be easily manipulated into complex shapes," said Pooria Mostafalu, Ph.D., first author on the paper who was a doctoral student at Tufts when he worked on the project and is now a postdoctoral research fellow with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. "Additionally, analytes can be delivered directly to tissue by using thread's natural wicking properties."
 
Originally posted by Tufts University.

New Eye Technology Detect Alzheimer's Before Onset Of Symptoms

New Eye Technology Detect Alzheimer's Before Onset Of Symptoms
Scientists may have overcome a major roadblock in the development of Alzheimer's therapies by creating a new technology to observe -- in the back of the eye -- progression of the disease before the onset of symptoms. Clinical trials are to start in July to test the technology in humans according to a paper recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).
 
The paper, titled "Early detection of amyloidopathy in Alzheimer's mice by hyperspectral endoscopy" builds upon previous work in cells by detecting changes in the retina of mice predisposed to develop Alzheimer's.
 
Early detection of Alzheimer's is critical for two reasons. "First, effective treatments need to be administered well before patients show actual neurological signs," said author Robert Vince, PhD, of the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota (UMN). "Second, since there are no available early detection techniques, drugs currently cannot be tested to determine if they are effective against early Alzheimer's disease. An early diagnostic tool like ours could help the development of drugs as well."
 
Looking through the eye to see the brain is a key advantage of the new technology. "The retina of the eye is not just 'connected' to the brain -- it is part of the central nervous system," said author Swati More, PhD, also of the Center for Drug Design at UMN. While the brain and retina undergo similar changes due to Alzheimer's disease, "unlike the brain, the retina is easily accessible to us, making changes in the retina easier to observe."
 
"We saw changes in the retinas of Alzheimer's mice before the typical age at which neurological signs are observed," said More. "The results are close to our best-case scenario for outcomes of this project."
 
For more information on participating in the clinical trial, please visit the trial website.