Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of any
cancer in the United States and the world.
There is a great deal of excitement about gene
inhibition because it has been a very effective
strategy for killing lung cancer cells in the lab.
The approach offers hope that we may be
able to save people who historically have
had a very dire prognosis.”
I’m a researcher at Thomas Jefferson University and one of four awardees of the most recent round of the Science Center’s QED proof-of-concept program. My colleagues and I are developing a product that could deliver gene inhibitors to diseased cells in people with lung cancer. Basically, we want to switch off the bad genes that help lung cancer cells to multiply and survive. The challenge is that gene inhibitors are not welcome in the body—and they tend to be eliminated before they reach their target. Our technology uses antibodies to protect the inhibitors, and target them specifically to the cancer cells—without damaging surrounding organs and tissues.
QED stands for Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Latin for “proven as demonstrated.” The QED Program is helping us to create the first proof that our cancer-fighting technology can work in the body. We’ve shown it can work in test tubes—but before we can even think about patients, we have to show that it works in an animal model—in this case, mice. QED provides academic researchers like me with the expertise and support to plan out what it will really take to get my idea from the lab to the clinic. They’ve helped with insight on the most appropriate path, and have provided the funding to do this first critical proof-of-concept. They’re very hands-on, and very supportive of the project. Every month I meet with the Science Center to update them on our progress. They always ask “is there anything we can help you with?”
The QED Program has allowed me to meet experienced business advisors who have helped me understand what investors and industry partners care about. I’ve also been introduced to scientists at startup companies who have been through the regulatory approval process with the FDA, and who have shared their experiences with me. Although I’m still an academic scientist, by participating in QED I really feel like I’m a part of the Science Center network. It’s given my technology a great deal of exposure to the broader community. Now we are starting to discuss how the Science Center’s new program, Phase 1 Ventures, can help us to bridge the gap between our QED support and financing from the commercial sector.
I work principally at the Thomas Jefferson University campus in Center City Philadelphia. Our idea of getting away from it all is going to the cafeteria! For me a visit to the Science Center in University City is a treat, something I truly enjoy. There is great energy and a good feeling among the entrepreneurs. From my work, I can just hop on SEPTA and it takes me only 10 minutes to get there. And I can avoid crazy drivers. Then I head home to Cherry Hill, N.J., to find some peace and quiet and watch some soccer.