The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year, $1.7 million grant to the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center to advance the development of new, exosome-based technology that empowers the body’s own natural defenses to fight cancer. Exovita Biosciences, Inc. (http://exovitabiotech.com/) , a company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, formed by the New Mexico Startup Factory, holds the option to an exclusive, worldwide license for the patent-pending technology developed by Kristina Antonia Trujillo, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in UNM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Exovita executed a Sponsored Research Agreement in February 2015 with UNM. The agreement will fund the development of the exosome-based technology as a therapeutic, while the NIH grant will fund the mechanistic investigation of how the exosomes exert their anti-cancer properties. The data generated through these awards will be the foundation for eventual cancer-fighting therapeutics. Richard Larson, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Research at the Health Sciences Center, said the NIH grant validates the significant potential of exosome-based cancer therapeutics. “Exosomes are small, fluid-filled packets that allow our cells to communicate with each other,” Dr. Larson said. “The therapeutic approach being taken by Exovita and Dr. Trujillo represents a new way of using our own natural biological process to fight cancer.” Dr. Trujillo, the principal investigator for the NIH RO1 grant, has identified specific cells that produce exosomes, which kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
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