Company’s NanoSphere particles to target epithelial tumors with fluorescent tags or cancer-killing agents.

Aura Biosciences reported raising $4.5 million from private investors to support development of its targeted cancer diagnostic and therapeutic technology towards clinical trials. The firm also announced signing of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NIH to progress the Nanosmart® platform.

The Nanosmart technology is based on NanoSphere Particles (NSP) that selectively target epithelial-derived tumor cells, the firm explains. For applications in cancer diagnostics, the particles are generated to encapsulate fluorescent tags, enabling visualization of targeted diseased cells in real time. For cancer therapy the same NSP vehicles are loaded with chemotherapy agents or siRNAs, and administered to directly attack cancer tissues.

The basic NSP structure comprises a 20-30nm hollow protein nanoparticles that can be designed to reproducibly display targeting agents on their surface. On binding to targeted cells the NSPs are then internalized by through receptor mediated endocytosis, where their cargo is released.

The firm claims proof-of-principle studies have demonstrated that using the Nanosmart technology for the topical delivery of an siRNA against HPV-related cancers resulted in 90% silencing of the target gene in vivo. It says these results support the potential for initial applications of the technology in the treatment of early-stage HPV-related tumors, including anal and cervical dysplasia, head and neck cancers, and non-melanoma skin cancer.

“The development of a real-time detection system that is sensitive and specific for epithelial tumors, and that can further enable a targeted treatment to distant metastases, could lead to major improvements in efficacy and survival rates,” comments Elisabet de los Pinos, Ph.D., founder and CEO at Aura.

In December 2010 Aura was awarded a $244,000 grant under the IRS Qualified Therapeutic Discovery Project Initiative to support development of the Nanosmart platform. 

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