One goal of the M2P2 program is to translate our bench studies to improved patient care. To that end, members of the M2P2 program collaborate with clinicians, startups and industry on a regular basis. Here are some examples of these translation endeavors.
George O'Toole and Bruce Stanton recently published a study supported by Novartis. This work examines the susceptibility of P. aeruginosa biofilms grown on airway cells to a front-line antibiotic used to treat patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), called Cayston. The punchline is that only ~50% of clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa showed significant sensitivity to this antibiotic when grown under these conditions, indicating that there might be some variability inhow patients respond to this antibiotic. This work was also funded in part by the CF Foundation.
Dr. Charles Sentman is developing novel anti-cancer therapeutics with Celdara Medical. The Sentman lab is interested in how innate immunity determines the nature of the adaptive immune response. Their research investigates the function of natural killer (NK) cells and NK cell receptors in response to infection and tumors. NK cells are found in almost every tissue, and they have the ability to recognize tumors, virus infected cells, and abnormal "self", which can alter the induction of specific adaptive immune responses. The Sentman group studies both human and murine NK cells, their receptors, and their effector functions, and is focused on how mucosal NK cells interact with nearby tissue cells during infection with HIV and other microbes. Dr. Sentman and colleagues has developed novel immunotherapies based on NK cell receptors that allow the host to recognize many types of tumors resulting in tumor elimination and induction of specific immune memory. They have recently received funding for a Phase I clinical trial.
Noelle lab develops therapeutics targeted to a novel immune pathway. In 2011, a new molecule that negatively regulates immunity called VISTA was discovered at Dartmouth in the Noelle Lab. VISTA is a member of a small family of proteins that shuts down immunity to prevent overreaching inflammatory responses. Over the past few years, two other members of this family have been targeted with blocking antibodies to prevent their negative regulation of immunity. In oncology indications this has proven to induce protective immunity to cancer in humans. Similarly, blocking VISTA with anti-VISTA antibodies has been shown to enhance immunity and allow protective immune responses to emerge to cancer in mouse models. This novel pathway is the core technology of the Dartmouth founded company named ImmuNext. The right to develop antibodies to human VISTA was licensed from Dartmouth by Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceuticals and a robust research program was initiated at the NCCC, bringing together basic immunologists, cancer oncologist, surgical oncologists, neurologists, pathologists, clinical technicians and other supporting faculty. As exciting as anti-VISTA mabs are for oncology, a soluble form of VISTA, VISTA-Ig is proving to be a powerful immunosuppressive drug. The Noelle lab has now shown efficacy in suppressing multiple murine models of autoimmunity, and this has raised substantial interest by the pharmaceutical industry to license VISTA-Ig as a whole new type of immune therapeutic. These efforts have been supported by multiple Phase I and Phase II SBIR and STTR Awards from NIH, R01 funding from NIH and private support.
The Geisel School's New Ventures Office helps to launch inventions and discoveries into the commercial world. This necessary, but often poorly understood, next step on the path from bench to bedside bridges the interface between academia and industry. "Industry" has many forms, and includes the world's largest companies, as well as startups created expressly for the development of a particular piece of IP. The New Ventures Office assists Dartmouth researchers with their inventions and discoveries through educational outreach, opportunity identification and development, advocacy through the patent application process (in concert with Dartmouth Tech Transfer Office), and finally monetization (e.g. finding a licensee, research sponsor, or starting a new company). We work with the major pharmaceutical companies, a variety of venture-backed companies, and have a number of startups underway. If you have an invention, a discovery, or a really surprising research result, or if you have questions about any of this, send Jake Reder an email at email@example.com.