Joerg Lahann, the Wolfgang Pauli Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, has received funding for a joint industry-academic cancer research project with Gradalis. The research focuses on finding methods to utilize a patient’s cancer cells to create personalized therapeutics to treat cancer.
“This type of research is exciting because it pairs a molecular immune technology that is currently being used, Vigil, to next generation biomaterials research from our laboratory,” said Lahann. “Since the foundational treatment is already in use, this means that my group’s ability to rapidly contribute to human health outcomes in the near future is greatly enhanced.”
Through established methods cancer cells from an individual can effectively be repurposed to become cancer-fighting cells rather than inhibitors, however, the inability to obtain enough cells for manufacturing has been a limitation to development.
This collaboration between Lahann and Tae-Hwa Chun, a professor of internal medicine and a member of the Biointerfaces Institute, aims at improving effectiveness by finding bioengineered conditions that allow for the proper growth, expansion and maintenance of an individual’s cancer cells. By pairing the findings of this research with Gradalis’ VigilⓇ technology, Lahann hopes to create a reliable and large-scale method to create individualized cancer-fighting cells for those whose tumors that are not adequately controlled by conventional treatments.
“It is nice to be able to couple applied research, like this project, to the fundamental research that has gone into our development of our engineered extracellular matrix technologies,” he said.
Gradalis is a late-stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of novel personalized therapeutics to treat cancer. They are focused on the development of a bi-shRNA platform that can be utilized to silence any gene or protein and can be applied to any cancer type. They utilized the bi-shRNA platform to develop Vigil, a proprietary personalized cancer therapeutic in multiple advanced cancer indications with the lead program demonstrating clinical benefit in progression free survival and overall survival in a randomized placebo controlled trial of an important subset of ovarian cancer patients.
Joerg Lahann has been with U-M ChE since 2003. He currently serves as the Wolfgang Pauli Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering and is a professor in the Biomedical Engineering, Macromolecular Science and Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering departments. He serves as the director of the U-M Biointerfaces Institute, through which he runs the Lahann Lab, which researches advanced biomaterials and surfaces as well as nanoparticles, drug delivery, and tissue engineering.