The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) on Wednesday made a major funding announcement, stating that the institute issued 17 new cancer research and development-related grants totaling $86 million in funding. The 17 grants span a broad spectrum of different cancer research and treatment initiatives, both by academic institutions and the private sector.
Six of the grants from CPRIT were awarded through the institute’s product development program, with the other eleven grants being approved by its research program for the advancement of research at various Texas institutes. The majority of funding went toward supporting oncology-focused research and development in the private sector, with Texas-based companies and a few oncology-focused companies relocating to Texas receiving approximately $63.2 million of the $86 million in total funds. CPRIT has indicated that this funding will go towards supporting a range of product development sectors and initiatives among the private sector recipients, including therapeutics, devices, and drug development.
On the research side, grants totaled approximately $22.9 million in order to support the continuation of CPRIT-funded multi-investigator research projects and research training programs that are already well-established and in place. These multi-investigator research grants are designed to fund collaborative projects for the development of new therapies, imaging methods, and diagnostic techniques for diagnosing and treating cancer, as well as offering funding in the form of training grants to fund programs that support the development of qualified future cancer scientists. Virtually every major biotech and life sciences academic research institution in Texas made the list.
CPRIT also indicated that the institute’s Oversight Committee reviewed and approved all of these new grants.
The following is a list provided by CPRIT detailing all of the new grants, and the organizations involved:
Grants For Company Product Development:
- DNAtrix, Inc., Clinical development and commercialization of oncolytic adenovirus for treating malignant glioma – Houston, three years, $10,813,623* requested. This project supports development of a modified version of the adenovirus for treating glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer, without harming the brain or producing side effects that can arise from chemotherapy. BioNews Texas has covered this research by DNATrix. Read about it here.
- ProPep Surgical, Real-time nerve identification for robotic surgery – Austin, three years, $4,435,857* requested. This project supports studies to test the clinical utility of a nerve monitoring system and determine if the system results in improved urinary and fecal continence following robotic-assisted surgery for cervical, prostate, and colon cancer. The goal is to reduce the incidence of nerve damage responsible for serious side effects associated with these surgeries.
Company Formation Grants:
- CerRx Inc., Novel ceramide-modulating therapeutics for cancer use – Lubbock, three years, $6,000,000*requested. CerRx will conduct a clinical trial with drugs that cause cancer cells to die by tricking them into overproducing ceramides, lipid compounds used in the formation of cell membranes, which are toxic in high doses. This is a revolutionary new treatment approach likely to be effective against many types of cancers that are resistant to current therapies.
Company Relocation Grants:
- Beta Cat Pharmaceuticals, Developing to clinical proof of concept drugs that inhibit a novel cancer cell target – relocating from Gaithersburg, MD, three years, $15,908,085* requested. Beta Cat specializes in developing targeted cancer therapies. It produces novel cancer drugs that attack molecular targets never before addressed clinically. The company will transition from a virtual to a “bricks and mortar” company located in Texas.
- ESSA Pharma Inc., Androgen receptor n-terminus blocker program for prostate cancer – relocating fromVancouver, British Columbia, three years, $12,000,000* requested. ESSA develops drugs aimed at blocking the hormone-fueled growth of prostate cancer tumors that may overcome all known mechanisms for hormone-therapy resistance thereby allowing men with recurrent prostate cancer to enjoy more progression-free years than current therapy offers.
- ProNAi Therapeutics, Inc., Phase II clinical studies for a first-in-class bcl-2 cancer drug – relocating from Plymouth, MI, three years, $14,000,000* requested. ProNAi is developing an anti-cancer therapy using the technology of DNA interference to silence cancer causing genes. The drug being developed consists of a DNA core surrounded by a protective “shell” that turns off genes causing certain leukemias. The company plans to relocate its corporate offices to Texas to unite with its existing Texas-based scientific operations with the funding, infrastructure and talent available in Texas to advance this and other novel treatments for cancer.
*Maximum amount to be funded upon successful completion of all milestones
Awarded Research Grants:
Multi-Investigator Research Award Continuation Grants for Years Four and Five:
- The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Comparative Effectiveness Research on Cancer inTexas – $3,231,048
This multidisciplinary consortium of investigators at The University of Texas Medical Branch and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is aimed at creating a statewide resource for outcomes and comparative effectiveness research in cancer for Texas. The goals are to assess the utilization of screening for breast, colon, and prostate cancer, access to and quality of cancer care, and the extent of surveillance of cancer survivors after treatment throughout the state.
- The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Novel MRI and MRS Methods for Imaging Cancer Metabolism – $1,758,888The goal of this program is to develop new techniques that enable imaging not only the size of a tumor, but its metabolic state. Such technology would allow one to determine right away whether cancer cells were dying after treatment, without waiting for months to detect tumor shrinkage. Technologies are also being developed to assess the major metabolic pathways being used by cancer cells in order to specifically target them with drugs that inhibit a particular metabolic pathway.
- Baylor College of Medicine, Targeted Therapies for Metastatic Osteosarcoma – $2,220,472
Malignant bone cancer in children (osteosarcoma) is difficult to treat once it has spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). Investigators from Texas Children’s Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine are working to understand the genetic events that lead to metastasis of osteosarcoma and use this information to develop new, less toxic therapies for treatment of this disease. In addition, these studies may lead to the development of tests that predict which patients are at risk of developing metastasis, so they can be monitored more closely and treated more aggressively.
- Rice University, Texas Cancer Diagnostic Pipeline Consortium – $3,912,225
Combined expertise from Rice University, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and The University of Texas Health Science Centers at Houston and San Antonio is being used to develop Bio- Nano-Chip technology (mini-sensors) for detecting ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. This project is designed to identify new biomarker signatures of cancer and its progression, and develop new diagnostic and screening tests for these cancers.Research Training Award Continuation Grants for Years Four and Five:
- Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Training Program –$1,574,628
A program to facilitate training of the next generation of cancer biology researchers to help ensure a diverse pool of highly trained scientists is available to meet the basic, clinical and translational cancer needs of Texas and the nation.
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Collaborative Training of a New Cadre of Innovative Cancer Prevention Researchers – $1,745,076. A training program for predoctoral and postdoctoral students in cancer prevention focused on innovative thinking. A variety of tools developed by cognitive scientists, linguists and educators is being used to challenge current research and practice models and teach innovation in research.
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Cancer Research Training Grant – $1,588,673This program spanning predoctoral and postdoctoral as well as undergraduate education is aimed at training individuals in all aspects of cancer research to build comprehensive understanding of basic science, translational and clinical areas of research.
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Future of Cancer Research: Training Program for Basic and Translational Scientists – $1,710,524This training program aims to recruit and educate undergraduate and predoctoral students as well as postdoctoral fellows using a multi-disciplinary approach unique to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Undergraduate and predoctoral students learn biological concepts in an environment where they can apply that knowledge to problems in cancer biology, and postdoctoral fellows are trained in the skills necessary to lead a translation cancer research program.
- The University of Texas at Austin, Molecularly-Targeted Approaches to Cancer Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Prevention – $1,648,814This training program provides trainees access to expertise from a variety of world-renowned mentors, exposing them to a diversity of views and broad base of knowledge that would not be available in a typical academic setting.
- The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Cancer Intervention and Prevention Discoveries Program – $1,916,038This training program is designed to develop Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. scientists who can formulate clinically important questions from a basic science perspective, understand how to interface and collaborate with clinical and translational research, and have the skill set to target their research programs to address unmet therapeutic and diagnostic needs.
- University of Houston, Continuation of Computational Cancer Biomedicine Training Program – $1,591,594 This is a postdoctoral training program that brings together biological and computational researchers and clinicians to share knowledge, ideas and techniques; more effectively use existing tools; develop new innovative tools; and ultimately create a new generation of interdisciplinary cancer researchers.