Research & Innovation

US company signs option with DCU on cancer treatment

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US company signs option with DCU on cancer treatment

US company signs option with DCU on cancer treatment
November 23
12:03 2015

US company Vaccinogen has signed an agreement with Dublin City University giving the firm a two-year option on acquiring a biotechnology analysis platform called DiCast, under undisclosed terms.

The company is setting up a research lab on DCU’s campus and DiCast lead researcher Paul Leonard is moving across to head up the facility.

The plan is to integrate DiCast (Direct Clone Analysis and Selection Technology) into Vaccinogen’s current business of developing personalised vaccines that attack any cancer cells left over after surgery to reduce any chance of a cancer recurrence.

Vaccinogen Inc is a biotech company based in Baltimore and formed eight years ago to develop anti-cancer vaccines:

“We were looking to build up our research and development effort and knew there was a vast amount of great talent in Ireland. We established an Irish subsidiary and started recruiting”, explained company co-founder and chief executive Andy Tussing.

Vaccinogen’s trawl for researchers and technologies turned up the highly multidisciplinery work being led at Dublin City University by PI and academic Paul Leonard.

Tussing and his group in DCU’s Biomedical Diagnostics Institute and engineers had developed an unusual biological assay system that makes it fast and easy to trap individual cells and then study their biochemistry in detail.

DiCast uses bundles of very fine tubes that are so small that only one cell at a time can enter the tube. Millions of these fine tubes can be assembled, with each one taking up a single cell.

US Company chief operations officer Peter Morsing assessed the technology, describing it as “the perfect fit for us”. The company did not move to buy immediately, however, to allow additional development :

“Because it was not 100 per cent validated,” Morsing says, “we made a deal with the university to have an option to acquire.”

There is great confidence that it will work, though. Leonard moved across to the research lab along with three members of his team, and the lab will probably have between seven and 10 researchers. Early funding for DiCast came from Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation via the DCU institute.

The immune system usually mops up abnormal cells, killing them off before they can do any damage. For some reason, though, the immune cells start ignoring mutant cells, allowing a tumour to grow and invade.

There is a lot of interest in the idea of using the body’s own immune system to attack cancers rather than relying on radiation or chemotherapy. Results have been mixed, though, and it is difficult to produce vaccines that attack the cancer while leaving healthy tissue alone.

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