Monon Bioventures LLC has received a one-year, $398,314 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant from the National Cancer Institute to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing a glioblastoma therapeutic created at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy.
“Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive cancers of the central nervous system; it grows, multiplies and spreads quickly. It is almost always lethal, and there is no effective cure. New, effective therapies are desperately needed,” said Sandro Matosevic, the assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy who has developed a potential treatment that has been optioned to Monon Bioventures.
Matosevic’s work demonstrates that human immune “natural killer” (NK) cells can be “armed” to specifically attack glioblastomas.
“Therapeutics for certain cancers have used related approaches with other immune cells, called T cells, which are obtained from the patient,” Matosevic said. “Natural killer cells can be accepted from multiple donors, however, not just the patient, which makes them much safer and which dramatically expands our ability to manufacture them in large doses to treat many patients. They are also very efficient at killing glioblastoma cells.”
Joe Trebley, president and CEO of Monon Bioventures, which is housed in the Indiana Center for Biomedical Innovation, said the federal funds for Matosevic’s work has the potential to bring hope to patients suffering from glioblastoma.
“His discovery provides a critical preclinical proof of concept of the disease,” Trebley said. “Our plans are to translate that discovery into the clinic by first working on the manufacturability of the novel therapeutic.”
Monon Bioventures will work on the treatment with Matosevic’s laboratory at Purdue and Genezen, a viral vector and gene therapy contract development and manufacturing organization.
“Arming the NK cells requires genetic modification of the cells through use of an appropriate viral vector as a tool,” Trebley said. “Genezen is a scientific leader in the production of lentiviral vectors and their use in cell transduction, which is delivering genes to cells. We are lucky to have them here with us in Indiana.”
Dave Wilhite, Genezen’s chief business officer, credited Monon Bioventures for its strong track record in translating innovative discoveries into clinical assets.
“Using natural killer cells as a therapy is on the cutting edge of innovation and has shown immense promise,” Wilhite said. “That is Monon Bioventures’ sweet spot, and we are excited to partner with them on this project.”
After the grant-sponsored work is complete, Monon Bioventures will discuss with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the company’s plan to move the treatment to clinical studies. After receiving the FDA’s feedback, the company will look to finance the project further.
Trebley credited the NCI and its SBIR program for critical support of innovation and discovery in the early development phase of cancer research.
“The grants are highly competitive, yet critical to funding novel potential therapeutics that translate out of academic labs,” he said.
Matosevic disclosed his glioblastoma treatment to the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, which has applied for a patent to protect the intellectual property. The office also optioned the treatment to Monon Bioventures.