Through a collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, two international research teams are set to explore new treatments for cancer using nanotechnology, which utilizes science and engineering at the molecular level.
Pooling expertise, scientists and physicians from Cleveland and Israel will try to determine whether tiny nanoparticles can more effectively deliver treatments to brain and breast cancer and lead to possible cures. Each research team will receive a $600,000 grant from The Center for Transformative Nanomedicine
The grants are the first awards from the center, which combines the capabilities of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and The Hebrew University, one of the world’s foremost centers of nanotechnology.
The family of Victor Cohn, a Cleveland real estate developer, gave the collaboration early momentum with a $2 million donation. The Cohn gift kicked off a five-year fundraising drive that has a minimum goal of $15 million. The debut grants coincide with the center’s one-year anniversary.
One research team will focus on the microbiome, specifically a suspected connection between gut bacteria imbalances and breast cancer. Researchers will try to determine whether they can stunt tumors, and avoid the harmful side effects of traditional cancer treatments, by using nanotechnology to deliver antibiotics directly to the bacterial community in breast cancer.
This team includes Hebrew University’s Arieh Moussaieff, Ph.D., and Chezy Barenholz, Ph.D., and Cleveland Clinic’s Stephen Grobmyer, M.D., and Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., the Sondra J. and Stephen R. Hardis Endowed Chair of Cancer Genomic Medicine.
The second team will seek to harness nanotechnology and stem cell therapies to treat glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. Researchers plan to use microchips to deliver treatments to lab-generated tumors, testing whether the procedure is safe and effective for people. If successful, such approaches could lead to new ways of addressing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
This team will be led by Jeremy Rich, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, and Yaakov (Koby) Nahmias, Ph.D., of Hebrew University.
Each team was awarded $600,000 for two years. Team members will also tap the resources of their respective institutions in Jerusalem and Cleveland.
D. Geoffrey Vince, Ph.D., chair of Biomedical Engineering at the Lerner Research Institute, said both projects hold out the promise of finding more effective and inexpensive means of diagnosing and treating cancer and other complex diseases.
He credits the collaboration with leveraging the assets of two world class science hubs to create better medicine.
“It’s hard to find two groups further apart geographically, but the collaboration is working extremely well,” said Vince, noting that the researchers communicate frequently by email and video conferencing and will meet in Cleveland this spring.
“It gives us a chance to address very important clinical questions using technology and approaches a world away,” he said. “It’s a true symbiotic relationship. We can help them and they can help us.”
Vince, who holds The Virginia Lois Kennedy Endowed Chair in Biomedical Engineering and Applied Therapeutics, leads the center’s scientific efforts in Cleveland. His counterpart in Israel is Simon Benita, Ph.D., a professor and the former head of the Institute for Drug Research and the School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University.
“We have embarked on a very fruitful scientific collaboration between two great institutions with complementary skills, bridging the gap from the bench to bedside for the benefit of patients suffering from severe diseases, particularly cancer, vascular and neurological disorders,” Professor Benita said. “Our Cleveland Clinic and Hebrew University scientists, who have met several times over the last two years, are excited by and enthusiastic about the potential to resolve challenging medical issues, and help patients, by combining their synergic skills.”
The collaboration began to take shape about two years ago, at the suggestion of Victor Cohn, a Cleveland native and a long-time supporter of The Hebrew University. Mr. Cohn and his wife, Ellen, have provided scholarships to disadvantaged youth to attend The Hebrew University, a science powerhouse whose founders include Albert Einstein.
The Cohns also support research and medical innovation at Cleveland Clinic, which is ranked the No. 2 hospital in America by U.S. News & World Report.
A virtual Center for Transformative Nanomedicine was launched in the fall of 2015. Soon after, the Cohn family backed the concept with a significant gift.
“Ellen and I are deeply involved in both organizations and felt it was a great opportunity to foster a collaboration with a leading hospital in the United States and the top Israeli university that has an international reputation for drug development,” Mr. Cohn said. “My family and I are overjoyed to provide initial funding to launch this relationship, which has the true potential to transform healthcare through the very young science of nanotechnology.”
Plans call for the center to be entirely supported by philanthropy. An initial $15 million fundraising drive is underway in the United States and worldwide.
Collaborative teams, made up of researchers from both Cleveland Clinic and The Hebrew University, have been invited to submit research proposals to a selection committee, which will award grants in accordance with fundraising success.