Safer drugs, better cancer care
LAGUNA HILLS, Calif.—NanoSmart Pharmaceuticals, a private biotechnology company, entered into a research collaboration agreement in mid-January with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to continue the development of NanoSmart's novel drug delivery platform for the treatment of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
NanoSmart's patented drug delivery system utilizes human autoimmune antibodies that target many different types of tumors, the partners say, and when those are combined with already FDA-approved cancer drugs, this technology reportedly allows for the creation of a broad range of next-generation, safer and more effective oncology therapeutics.
"NanoSmart has always had an interest in improving drugs for pediatric cancers, as our antinuclear antibody enables us to target these rare cancers as well as larger cancers like breast, lung, prostate, etc.," NanoSmart President Dr. James Smith tells ddn. "The universal tumor targeting capability of our drug delivery platform enables NanoSmart to focus on many different rare diseases that other typical development companies aren't able to address due to their limited ability to recoup costs from a small customer base."
Smith explains that his company already had secured a collaboration with Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) in November 2011 to assess its formulation for Ewing's sarcoma, a rare pediatric cancer diagnosed in approximately 250 to 300 kids each year in the United States.
"NanoSmart is always on the lookout for collaborators to help develop and improve formulations for rare diseases that would otherwise go untreated," Smith says, and notes that his company connected with Dr. Noah Federman and his colleagues at UCLA through a family friend of NanoSmart's vice president of business development, Dan Thiel.
"This family recently lost their 10-year-old daughter, Hunter, to Ewing's sarcoma. As is the case with many of these rare diseases, Hunter was asymptomatic and passed away before doctors had a chance to intervene," Smith relates. "Knowing the work in which Dan was involved, Hunter's family introduced him to Dr. Federman. As part of his work at UCLA, Dr. Federman has a strong passion for supporting research and development of novel therapeutic approaches that could help prevent such tragedies. Our initial discussions began near the end of July, based upon mutual research interests, and our common goal of developing new, more effective treatments for pediatric sarcomas."
Federman is the director of the Pediatric Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Program at UCLA, a part of the UCLA Sarcoma Program and UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as an assistant professor of pediatrics in hematology and oncology at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.
"Despite the extensive research into new drug formulations," Federman says, "the pace of advancing benefit to this patient population is unfortunately slowing. We are pleased to collaborate with NanoSmart to help drive the development of these much-needed products."
To NanoSmart's technology base, UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center brings what NanoSmart and UCLA say is among the nation's largest and top-ranked comprehensive cancer research centers, boasting more than 240 researchers and clinicians dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies.
Although NanoSmart hadn't previously had a relationship with Federman and his team, Smith says he was "pleased to discover that he has worked with another collaborative partner of ours, Dr. Timothy Triche, professor of pathology and pediatrics and director of the CHLA Department of Pathology's Center for Personalized Medicine. Dr. Federman and Dr. Triche share research interests and several novel animal models, and have co-authored at least one recent study investigating liposomal nanoparticles. This substantial overlap between CHLA and UCLA expands NanoSmart's research bandwidth and development capabilities."
A the time the CHLA deal was sealed in 2011, Triche said, "We are pleased to work with NanoSmart as part of our ongoing research program in nanoparticle-mediated therapy of Ewing's sarcoma. This research will complement other research currently in progress in our lab. It is unique in that NanoSmart has leveraged a naturally occurring human antibody to target the nanoparticles to the tumor, which if successful should facilitate rapid approval from the FDA for use on Ewing's sarcoma patients."
The more recent collaboration agreement between NanoSmart and UCLA will allow NanoSmart access to tremendous scientific and clinical expertise both directly and through Federman's network, Smith says.
"Paired with NanoSmart's development and regulatory expertise, the two institutions' abilities to develop solutions for rare pediatric cancers is increased," he adds. "While NanoSmart holds intellectual property for antibodies and various nanoparticle formulations, Dr. Federman's lab at UCLA can provide novel animal models and access to labs with nanotechnology drug development capabilities."
These are resources, Smith notes, which may allow NanoSmart to extend proof-of-concept data and preclinical efficacy and safety studies across multiple cancer tumor types.
"Down the road, Dr. Federman's affiliation with the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center enables access to clinical trial resources and infrastructure that can manage NanoSmart's planned Phase I/II clinical trials," he concludes.