ROCHESTER, Minn. — New treatments and diagnostics for Alzheimer’s and cancer dominate the 2016 research awards recently announced by the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics. The state-supported funding was distributed among seven research teams, based on competitive applications. Each team represents researchers from Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.
“These are seed grants, aimed at providing innovative researchers the means to get a scientific project off the ground and on the way toward a possible new treatment,” says Eric Wieben, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic, program co-director for the Minnesota Partnership.
“I’m pleased that we are entering our second decade of scientific progress with so many strong projects that could potentially change how medicine is practiced,” says Tucker LeBien, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, program co-director.
The seven grants totaled just over $6.5 million.
Characterization of Anti-Tumor Immune Responses following Oncolytic therapy in Spontaneous Cancer
In this study researchers will use engineered Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a powerful new immunotherapy for osteosarcoma. The study patients will be dogs already stricken with osteosarcoma that, like humans, often die due to progressive disease and metastasis. Researchers will carry out an in-depth analysis to understand how and when VSV therapy activates the immune system to destroy naturally occurring canine osteosarcoma as a way to prevent or delay disease progression.
Jaime Modiano, D.V.M, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Stephen Russell, M.D., Mayo Clinic
Bioengineered Oral Vaccines against MRSA “Superbug”
This project will develop vaccines against the antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA. If this project is successful, the bacteria will be rendered sensitive to the antibiotics that currently do not work, including penicillin and its derivatives. These vaccines also hold promises to eliminate these dangerous infectious agents before surgery or implantation of artificial joints or cardiac pacemakers to reduce the risk of untreatable infections.
Michael Barry, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Chun Wang, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Evaluating Novel Therapeutic Strategies for Treating Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy
Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy is a late onset degenerative eye disease. Corneal transplantation is the only available treatment option for this disease. With the identification of the underlying disease mechanism, researchers are now in a position to better understand the disease process and will be testing therapeutic strategies to identify drug classes that will slow disease progression.
Michael Fautsch, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Harry Orr, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Smart Fabric for Cardio-Performance Enhancement
Compression garments have widespread clinical and commercial applications, but garments on the market today suffer from several design flaws. This research team is developing a smart garment with integrated active materials with the ability to squeeze on command, combining the controllability and ease of donning an inflatable sleeve with the low mass/profile of an elastic stocking. Applications range from vascular disease therapies to sports medicine.
Lucy Dunne, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Bruce Johnson, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
Regenerating Myelin in Multiple Sclerosis
MS is a complicated progressive disease that affects almost one in every thousand people around the world. These researchers will be using newly patented DNA aptamers that help mice to regenerate material damaged by animal MS to study disease progression. Aptamers are specialized molecules that bind to pre-selected targets. Researchers will test how best to assemble these aptamers for treatment, and whether a simpler method to ease the drug manufacturing process will be effective. These studies with mice will set the stage for moving this important new MS therapy toward future studies with humans.
Jim Maher, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic; Sang-Hyun Oh, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Molecular Mechanism of Novel Small Molecule Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease
This project hopes to establish more efficient treatment regimens for memory loss. It will take a novel therapy (CP2/C458) and determine if it can slow or stop actual loss of nerve cells caused by the toxic proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Michael Lee, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
Early Diagnosis of Brain Insulin Resistance in Alzheimer’s disease
It is shown that in type II diabetes and similarly, in Alzheimer’s disease, blood vessels in the brain are damaged and insulin needed for proper brain function cannot be delivered to the brain. Researchers in this project will work on developing insulin as an imaging marker for the early detection of the blood vessels’ inability to transport insulin into the brain. This will allow health professionals to screen individuals at risk for dementia before the memory changes become evident.
Karunya Kandimalla, Ph.D., University of Minnesota; Val Lowe, M.D., Mayo Clinic