City of Hope and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have awarded four grants totaling $400,000 through the Caltech/City of Hope Biomedical Research Initiative.
|John Rossi (Photo by Walter Urie Photography)|
The grants support four projects: development of a novel gene therapy for HIV/AIDS; genetic profiling of cancer stem cells; finding and testing of genetic targets for leukemia; and methods of tracking how a gene therapy for cancer works.
HIV/AIDS gene therapy
John J. Rossi, Ph.D., Lidow Family Research Chair and chair of City of Hope’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Niles A. Pierce, Ph.D., executive officer of Caltech’s Department of Bioengineering and professor of applied and computational mathematics, are developing a therapy for HIV/AIDS that may purge the virus from patients. The team aims to combine a genetic trigger that Pierce designed to initiate cellular death with a delivery system created by Rossi that targets only HIV-infected immune system Tcells.
Cancer stem cells
|Emily Wang (Photo by p.cunningham)|
Breast cancer stem cells are highly resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They also may be responsible for tumor growth and metastasis. S. Emily Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor in City of Hope’s Division of Tumor Cell Biology, is studying cancer stem cells and their role in the development of tumors. She and Alexei Aravin, Ph.D., assistant professor in Caltech’s Division of Biology, will explore the underlying genetic activity in healthy and malignant breast stem cells, focusing on a specific genetic pathway discovered by Aravin that controls how stem cells reproduce. Their goal: to better understand the pathway’s possible role in breast cancer stem cell activity.
Genetic targets for leukemia
Takahiro Maeda, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in City of Hope’s Division of Stem Cell and Leukemia Research, and Ali Hajimiri, Ph.D., the Thomas G. Meyers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech, are developing an efficient test that may help identify the best drug targets for individual leukemia patients’ cancers. The team will adapt Hajimiri’s unique microarray testing system to screen leukemia cells for genetic targets, such as those discovered by Maeda, and optimize patients’ treatments.
Gene therapy for cancer
|Takahiro Maeda (Photo by Denise Bovee)|
Hua Yu, Ph.D., associate chair and professor in City of Hope’s Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology, and Russell Jacobs, Ph.D., a member of the Beckman Institute at Caltech’s Biological Imaging Center, are furthering a gene-therapy treatment for cancer. Yu developed the therapy to target a gene critical to cancer growth. Using Jacobs’ specialized imaging systems, the team will track the distribution of the therapy in laboratory models and study how it works.
The current round of grants is the third since the Caltech/City of Hope Biomedical Research Initiative launched in 2008 through a $3 million seed gift. The grants aim to bolster a tradition of partnership between City of Hope and Caltech. An anonymous donor contributed two additional gifts of $3 million each to City of Hope and Caltech respectively this year to further support the collaboration and to encourage additional studies.
“When we effectively apply the strengths of both City of Hope and Caltech to scientific research, we can more easily leverage groundbreaking discovery into the development of improved therapies for people facing serious illness such as cancer, HIV or diabetes,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of City of Hope and the Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair. “We are very grateful for the generosity of donors who support our combined efforts to help patients everywhere.”
|Hua Yu (Photo by Walter Urie Photography)|
Arlene Chiu, Ph.D., professor-in-residence and director of City of Hope’s Office of New Research Initiatives, and Caltech’s Morteza Gharib, Ph.D., vice provost and Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bioinspired Engineering, jointly administer the initiative.
“By combining the intellect, creativity and passion of researchers from both of our institutions, we hope to accelerate the speed at which potentially game-changing discoveries in medical science are moved from the laboratory to patient care,” said Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau, Ph.D. “Private support is absolutely critical to achieving this goal, so we greatly appreciate this generous gift.”