UNC chemist to partner on nanoparticle vaccine for prostate cancer

UNC chemist Joseph DeSimone will partner with scientists at two universities and a local biotechnology company to develop a nanoparticle vaccine for prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) awarded the UNC-Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard-Johns Hopkins-Liquidia Technologies consortium a Challenge Award of $1 million, one of 10 such awards funded by the organization.

DeSimone is Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C. State University.

Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Awards are designed to support cross-disciplinary teams of prostate cancer investigators who are focused on highly innovative research with potential near-term patient benefit. These awards are given to projects not yet funded by any government or foundation program.

DeSimone’s cross-disciplinary team of chemists and immunologists is developing a new immunotherapy designed to efficiently deliver new agents to the body in order to stimulate a patient’s own immune system to produce cancer-fighting agents and attack cancer cells. This work represents continued progress in immunotherapy for cancer — a now validated concept once thought to be impossible.

According to DeSimone, “UNC researchers, in partnership with researchers at Liquidia, will focus on the particle fabrication and optimization aspects of the project, which will involve the development of particles, analytical evaluation and initial testing.” The UNC team will then work with collaborators at Harvard and Hopkins to test the particles in validated models.

DeSimone is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-director of the Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, one of seven centers established by the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer Program. He is also director of UNC’s Institute for Advanced Materials, the Carolina Institute for Nanomedicine and an adjunct member of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“These newly funded programs form an excellent, patient-centric research portfolio,” said Howard Soule, executive vice president and chief science officer for PCF. “Joseph DeSimone and his cross-investigational team, including Martin Sanda, Simo Arredouani and Charles Drake, have a goal of changing clinical practice and improving outcomes for patients with advanced prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is delighted to fund this innovative work.”

DeSimone will work with UNC colleagues Mary Napier and Shaomin Tian; Martin Sanda and M. Simo Arredouani from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard University; Charles Drake from Johns Hopkins University; and Jonathan Smith, chief scientific officer at Liquidia Technologies. Located in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Liquidia focuses on developing highly precise particle-based vaccines and therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of human disease. DeSimone founded Liquidia in 2004.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world’s largest philanthropic source of support for accelerating the most promising research for better treatments and cures for prostate cancer.