Ira S. Ayene is working on a new way to fight cancer.
His strategy involves targeting tumor cells under metabolic stress caused by lower than normal concentrations of glucose in their environment. Glucose, a sugar, is the body’s primary source of energy.
Ira S. Ayene came to LIMR in 2006.
Ayene has developed a compound that would be toxic for cells in low glucose environments, but would not damage tissue with normal levels of glucose.
Under these metabolic conditions, the compound attacks proteins required for normal cell function, but the compound is deactivated under normal glucose conditions found everywhere in the body other than tumor cells.
To advance his research, and possibly create a company to commercialize his discovery, Ayene left the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 to become an associate professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) in Wynnewood.
J. Todd Abrams, director of philanthropy and business development at LIMR, said the first-of-its kind therapeutic should be effective against almost any solid tumor.
The discovery also paved the way for the development of an assay (a procedure in molecular biology for screening drugs) that measures the status of metabolic pathways in both individual and cell cultures. Potential applications of Ayene’s assay include predicting the effectiveness of a treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, in a patient with cancer and evaluating potential new treatments for cancer and other diseases.
Abrams turned to BioStrategy Partners, a virtual incubator organization for the life sciences industry, for help in determining how best to commercialize Ayene’s discoveries.
“We provide the scientific support,” he said. “BioStrategy Partners provides the business support.”
LIMR expanded its role to include serving as an incubator for early-stage life sciences companies under the direction of George C. Prendergast, the institute’s president and CEO who joined in 2004.
Prendergast has focused LIMR research on disease modifiers and immune system regulators.
Abrams, who handles technology transfer issues for the institute, said Prendergast wants LIMR to be a place not only for scientific discoveries but also a place where those discoveries are advanced to have a direct impact on patient health.