Aura Biosciences, Inc., a biotech company focused on the development of nano-enabled drug delivery systems, has completed several pre-clinical research programs. The resulting data suggest that Aura’s NanoSmart™ platform can enable earlier detection of cancers and distant metastases; and then provide precisely targeted treatment of those cancers.
The company has raised an additional $4.5M from private investors to advance its programs to the clinic. The company has also entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the NIH to further develop the initial findings discovered at Dr. John Schiller’s lab at the NCI and to drive the technology to commercialization. Dr. John Schiller is one of the inventors of the multibillion dollar HPV vaccine franchise currently commercialized by Merck and GSK, and has been recognized with multiple awards including the 2011 Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award.
“Malignant tumors of epithelial tissues are the most common form of cancer and are responsible for the majority of cancer-related deaths in the US. Mortality is linked increasingly to early metastasis, which is often undetected at the time of primary diagnosis,” said Elisabet de los Pinos, PhD, founder and CEO of Aura Biosciences. “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.”
Nanosmart™ is Aura Biosciences’s proprietary technology platform based on NanoSphere Particles (NSPs) that have a selective tropism for epithelial-derived tumor cells. Aura’s approach to diagnose cancer metastases encapsulates FDA-approved fluorescing molecules into these NSPs, which then selectively targets diseased tissue, penetrates the cancerous cells, and releases a fluorescent signal that can be visualized in real time with existing medical imaging equipment. In a second step, the same NSP vehicle can be loaded with a chemotherapeutic drug to deliver a lethal dose directly to the tumor cancer cells, ostensibly increasing the drug’s efficacy while greatly reducing toxic side effects.
Delivery of siRNA
Aura Biosciences has completed proof of principle studies and has obtained outstanding results with the topical delivery of siRNA for the treatment of HPV-related cancers, showing 90% silencing of the target gene in vivo. These data suggest immediate relevance in treating early-stage HPV-related tumors, such as anal and cervical dysplasia, head and neck cancers, and non-melanoma skin cancer.
“Anogenital dysplasia affects over 700,000 men and women every year in the United States and is a highly unmet medical need for better drugs to reduce the burden of surgery. Novel non invasive treatments are a high priority for these patients,” said Dr. Joel Palefsky, Professor of Medicine at UCSF and chair of the HPV Working Group of the U.S. National Cancer Institute-supported AIDS Malignancy Consortium.
Aura Biosciences, Inc.