University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan (far left) and Delaware Biotechnology Institute Director John Koh (far right) and other the speakers at the recent biopharmaceutical symposium at UD’s STAR Campus.

Thought leaders explore emerging area of biotherapeutics

The tremendous potential of the emerging class of medicines known as biotherapeutics — medicines produced from living cells — is exciting new terrain for researchers, industry and health care professionals.

Getting new drugs from the lab to the market remains a significant challenge, however. The discovery is difficult because, despite new biological insights and technological advances, the mechanisms of disease are still poorly understood. The delivery is formidable because complex diseases often require complex therapies. They must be effective, affordable to patients and a worthwhile investment for manufacturers.

Ensuring safe, reliable manufacturing is a big problem that drives the high cost of these therapies.

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April Kloxin, Centennial Career Development Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and associate professor of materials science and engineering, is one of 60 researchers from across the country who received the 2019 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.

Engineering professor April Kloxin receives grant to accelerate the study of lung fibrosis

University of Delaware Professor April Kloxin has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award from the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which supports highly innovative research proposals.

With this five-year grant award, Kloxin aims to develop next-generation materials and tools to accelerate research in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — an incurable, fatal disease that leaves people with difficulty breathing and progressive lung scarring.

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Heidi Martelock (left) from Chemours and Chris Roberts, associate director for NIIMBL, spoke to visitors from BIO 2019 at UD’s STAR Campus.

Global experts visit UD to learn about biotech ecosystem

Global leaders and experts in biotechnology and life sciences toured the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus on Monday, June 3, to learn about the vibrant innovation community taking shape in Newark, Delaware. The visit was part of a broader Delaware biotech ecosystem tour offered at the BIO International Conference, held June 3-6 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. BIO 2019, an international gathering of more than 16,000 people from 74 countries, provided a forum to network and learn about biotechnology and biopharma trends and policy issues, while celebrating the latest research and innovations in health care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. The University of Delaware is a 21st century research university with a proud legacy of education and innovation, where academic research, discovery and entrepreneurship come together to make a positive impact on the world. UD’s 272-acre STAR Campus is home to a growing community of trailblazers in health, energy, the environment, and financial technology and services. “UD is an emerging leader in the exciting field of biopharmaceutical research. Building on our University’s rich legacy, today’s innovators — our students and faculty — are shaping the front lines of discovery,” said UD President Dennis Assanis.

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Doctoral student Rachel Lieser (center) partnered with her two faculty advisors, Wilfred Chen (right), Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering and Millie Sullivan (left), Centennial Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, on breast cancer research.

For breast cancer research, engineering graduate student combines two labs’ expertise
Unlike most doctoral students, University of Delaware student Rachel Lieser has not one, but two faculty advisors.

One is Wilfred Chen, Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering, an expert in protein engineering. One is Millie Sullivan, Centennial Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, an expert in biomaterials and drug delivery. The three of them are working together to develop better treatments for inflammatory breast cancer. So far, they have developed a technique that selectively kills cancer cells in a cell culture model. They utilize amino acids not found in nature to strategically deliver proteins to receptors on the surfaces of cancer cells. When the cells internalize these proteins, they produce a toxin that kill the cells from within—thus, the proteins act as ‘suicide enzymes.’

Lieser, Chen and Sullivan described their results in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry in 2019, and for this work, Lieser won a Best of BIOT Award in Emerging Technology from the Division of Biochemical Technology (BIOT) of the American Chemical Society.

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UD Professors Emily Day and Joel Rosenthal have combined efforts to improve existing light-activated cancer treatments for triple-negative breast cancer: photodynamic and photothermal therapy.

Light-triggered therapies work better together than separately against triple-negative breast cancer

Two University of Delaware researchers have developed a new approach to attack cancer, using two light-activated treatments that appear to be more effective together than when applied independently. More research is needed, but the findings point to promising new approaches against an especially challenging kind of cancer — triple negative breast cancer — which was the focus of their recent studies. Triple negative breast cancer is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that accounts for 10 to 20 percent of patients. It is called triple negative because the cancer cells do not have three biomolecules commonly found on other breast cancer cells – receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and another receptor known as HER2. This means there are no targeted treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, so it is usually managed with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. Each of these options has negative side effects with less than ideal patient outcomes. Now UD researchers Emily Day, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Joel Rosenthal, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and their labs have shown that a combination of two minimally invasive therapies could give doctors a more powerful weapon against this cancer as well as others. Both treatments are activated by near-infrared wavelengths of laser light, but each accomplishes its mission differently.

View video: Why dual light therapy hits triple negative breast cancer harder
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