Hasan Uludag of RJH Biosciences in Canada will develop an affordable immunotherapy system based on genome-integrating transposons that works inside the body for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Emerging immunotherapies offer promising treatment for many diseases, but they require genetic modification of immune cells outside the body, and are thus labor intensive and expensive, limiting their utility in developing countries. They will use engineered nanoparticles in a new approach to immunotherapy that modifies immune cells inside the body. The nanoparticles are derived from polymeric materials that can encapsulate nucleic acids and proteins and release them into host cells. These nanoparticles will be dispersed in a hydrogel matrix with immunostimulatory molecules to create a living bioreactor inside the host that will attract and genetically modify immune cells. They will select polymers for their ability to deliver DNA-based transposons (to facilitate integration into the host genome) to immune cells and to stably express a reporter gene. Optimal polymers will be transferred into mice and they will evaluate transfection efficiency into immune cells with a fluorescent reporter gene. Finally, they will test the therapeutic efficacy of their in situ immune cell engineering approach in a mouse leukemia model.
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