NSU Researchers to Tackle Sarcoma
Researchers around the world are investigating ways to effectively train immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells, to target specific types of tumors. NK cells represent a form of immunotherapy that is potentially a less toxic and more effective way to combat tumor cells than current standard cancer treatment protocols, which heavily rely on chemotherapy and radiation. There is a lack of private research funding investment in this promising area of study due to the lag time involved in translating these discoveries from the bench to bedside. Academia is stepping up to fill this much-needed void.
The Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Cell Therapy Institute, led by accomplished cancer researcher Richard Jove, Ph.D., is actively collaborating with scientists from the world-renowned Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden, home of the scientists who discovered NK cells, to develop a full-circle investigative process to expedite discoveries. The research team is led by KI’s Evren Alici, M.D., Ph.D., a world leader in the field, and H. Thomas Temple, M.D., NSU’s senior vice president for translational research and economic development. They are initially focusing on pediatric sarcomas, which receive less research funding than more common forms of cancer. The goal is to take these discoveries and ultimately transfer them to develop durable cures for various other forms of cancer.
The research team has developed a process in which sarcoma tissues that would normally be incinerated following surgical removal are being repurposed for scientific investigation. The tissues are taken directly to NSU’s Cell Therapy Core immediately after surgical removal by Dr. Temple, who, in addition to leading NSU’s research endeavor, is a well-respected orthopedic oncology surgeon. From there, a scientific team led by Adil Duru, Ph.D., isolates cells and are able to send them directly to the university’s other core facilities for sequencing, genomic modification and analysis, imaging and testing.
NSU is also using these cells to create an expanded tumor library for further research, through collaboration with the NSU AutoNation Institute for Breast and Solid Tumor Cancer Research, which focuses on how DNA damage and defects in DNA repair contribute to cancer. This research is being led by Jean Latimer, Ph.D., AutoNation Institute director and professor in the NSU College of Pharmacy. Lines from this library are available for purchase and partnership opportunities for researchers seeking an expanded resource to conduct pharmaceutical and genetic research.
Tamper-Proof Technology to Confront Prescription Drug Abuse
Opioid abuse is a national epidemic. Researchers at NSU hope to help deter the number of lives these drugs negatively affect.
Following U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines to develop abuse-deterrent formulations, NSU researchers, led by Hossein Omidian, Ph.D., have developed tamper-resistant opioid tablets.
NSU’s deterrent technologies prevent abusers from crushing, cracking, liquefying or otherwise altering the pill’s original state. When taken as prescribed, the tamper-resistant pill dissolves only in stomach acid.
“Since abusers do not follow a standard protocol and use a wide range of unconventional methods to abuse opioids, no single technology can promise full deterrence to abuse,” says Dr. Omidian, a professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy. “We strategically designed technologies that can effectively and safely be used in developing both immediate and sustained-release formulations with effective abuse-deterrent properties.”
Currently in late-stage research, the product is protected by several patent applications as NSU seeks collaborative partnerships and licensing opportunities to bring the technology to market.
Researchers Rewriting “Pen” for Epinephrine Fast-Delivery
For 30 years, epinephrine auto-injectors have been the go-to life-saving devices for people suffering severe, acute allergic reactions. Yet some auto injectors, including the EpiPen®, have seen a 500% price increase.
Now, a team of Nova Southeastern University (NSU) pharmaceutical researchers is developing a fast-acting epinephrine tablet to deliver the same remedy.
The sublingual epinephrine tablets being developed by Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, Ph.D., and Ph.D. and Pharm.D. students at NSU disintegrate quickly under the patient’s tongue and are absorbed directly into the blood stream.
Epinephrine tablets have proven less bulky, are easier to handle, have a longer shelf life and enable more precise dosages than epinephrine injectors. They’re also a less intimidating, less invasive method of self-administration of epinephrine.
“Some patients don’t like to inject themselves, and sometimes there’s an anxiety associated with administering the epinephrine injection,” says Dr. Rawas-Qalaji, an associate professor at the NSU College of Pharmacy. “The new tablet will break down in a few seconds under the tongue and can reach the same concentration achieved by the injection.” The product could reach the market by 2020.