Six Weill Cornell scientists have been selected as winners of the Daedalus Fund for Innovation, a new medical college program that helps advance promising early-stage applied and translational research that has commercial potential.
Established by Weill Cornell Dean Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher earlier this year, the Daedalus Fund is designed to help Weill Cornell investigators make their research more appealing to the biopharmaceutical industry. Investors require “proof of concept” — for instance, data derived from testing in animal models or the development of a new biomarker — as the standard by which they determine whether a project is ready for funding.
While grants from the National Institutes of Health or other agencies fund basic science research, they often don’t provide enough money to cover these “proof of concept” studies. This funding gap is one of the greatest obstacles scientists face when trying to advance early-stage discoveries into next- generation treatments.
A Liquid Biopsy for Cancer
Invasive needle biopsies are the only way to tell whether a patient’s cancer is responding to its prescribed treatment — and oftentimes the answer comes too late. By the time oncologists learn that the treatment isn’t working, likely due to a mutation causing resistance, the cancer has likely already spread.
But that may soon change. David Lyden, the Stavros S. Niarchos Professor in Pediatric Cardiology and a professor of pediatrics and of cell and developmental biology, together with Dr. Hector Peinado Selgas, an assistant professor of molecular biology in pediatrics, have developed a blood test that isolates small, spherical tumor-secreted packages containing protein, RNA and DNA from patients’ bloodstreams. Cancer cells release these vesicles, known as exosomes, which use the bloodstream to travel around the body and spread the seeds for metastasis.
Dr. Lyden believes his liquid biopsy can quickly determine how effective a cancer patient’s treatment is by measuring the number and content of exosomes circulating in that patient’s blood, ultimately leading to personalized treatment approaches. He also hypothesizes that the test can predict future cancer metastasis. The Daedalus Fund grant will enable Dr. Lyden to characterize and analyze the protein and DNA content of tumor exosomes. Ultimately, he will use that information to develop a platform that can identify and screen patients for biomarkers in melanoma, breast and prostate cancers.
“I was pleased that the reviewers funded a project that’s considered ‘out of the box,'” Dr. Lyden said. “This is a whole new cancer field in which discoveries regarding the properties of cancer vesicles have been made by a few groups of investigators including work in our laboratory. This fund is helping us overcome a lot of obstacles and accelerate our projects so we can connect with drug companies to rapidly translate our discovery into a clinical application.”
Source – Weill Cornell News