October 23, 2014

UPDATE: Collaboration to Develop a Targeted Therapy Drug for Adrenal Cancer Treatment

Tumor cells need cholesterol to grow - particularly in adrenal cancer, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) particles can deliver cholesterol to the tumor. In this collaborative project between Dr. Anna Schwendeman and Dr. James Moon’s labs (College of Pharmacy) and Mark Cohen’s lab (Department of Surgery) synthetic HDL particles are used to shuttle anticancer drugs selectively to tumor cells. The HDL particles are very small (8-10 nm) and have long circulation half-life, which allows for them to accumulate inside the tumor. Dr. Cohen and Dr. Schwendeman were awarded approximately $188,000 through Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program (MTRAC)) a new funding mechanism focused on projects with a potential to transition from academic discoveries toward commercialization.

“The MTRAC funds are critical to us to complete proof of concept animal experiments and file a patent application. Even more valuable than the money was a mentorship from the MTRAC oversight committee, which consisted of biotech CEOs, venture capitalists and non-profit leaders that guided us in understanding what is the value of our technology and how to commercialize it," Dr. Schwendeman said. “Mark Cohen, James Moon, and I are fortunate to be physically co-located at NCRC where interdisciplinary collaborations are highly encouraged and easy to manage within one contiguous complex. Our lab members Rui Kuai (3rd year Pharm Sci graduate student) and Chitra Subramanian (research faculty from Dr. Cohen’s lab) often discuss data and exchange samples without us knowing. This informal exchange and problem solving is really critical to our success.”

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Learn more: BioInterfaces Institute


In February 2013, the U-M Medical School was awarded $2.4 million to help fund the U-M Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program (U-M MTRAC). The goal of U-M MTRAC is to provide research funding to projects that have high potential for translation into the commercial industry. The University of Michigan will provide matching funds, totaling $7.5 million over the next three years.

Of the 39 proposals submitted in its first year, the MTRAC Oversight Committee selected 11 for funding, including one by Dr. Anna Schwendeman, Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the College of Pharmacy.

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