A startup working to commercialize exosome-based cancer therapeutics has won a $1.7 million grant from NIH’s National Cancer Institute for research toward developing the technology.

Exovita Biosciences said it will use the NIH grant to investigate how exosomes exert their anticancer properties, while continuing to develop the technology as a cancer therapeutic.

Exovita holds an option to an exclusive, worldwide license for the patent-pending technology with STC.UNM, the technology-transfer and economic-development organization of the University of New Mexico (UNM).

Kristina Antonia Trujillo, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at UNM, developed the technology after identifying specific cells in normal tissue surrounding breast tumors that communicated with each other by producing exosomes. The exosomes killed breast cancer cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

Dr. Trujillo, the principal investigator for the NIH RO1 grant, and Exovita reason that exosome-based drugs could curtail serious side effects that often accompany conventional cancer treatments. In February, Exovita signed a sponsored research agreement with UNM to commercialize the technology.

Exovita CEO John Chavez said in a statement that the company's initial focus is to develop breast cancer drugs, with the goal of leveraging the resulting therapeutics to treat cancers of the pancreas, colon, prostate, and other organs.

“These drugs will be personalized to the patient and the foundation for more effective cancer treatments and better outcomes for patients,” Chavez stated.

Chavez is also founder of the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, which formed Exovita in January. Start-Up Factory brings to market UNM and national laboratory research technologies funded by the federal SBIR program by licensing and developing intellectual property and finding executives to commercialize and lead the company.

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