Life Science Accelerator Grants Awarded to Two CDM Faculty

August 20, 2020

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine faculty members Yiping Han, PhD, and Fatemeh “Flora” Momen-Heravi, DDS, PhD, have been awarded Columbia Life Science Accelerator grants in support of translational research. The program’s grantees—14 teams in all, spanning a variety of life sciences disciplines—will receive funding to advance their research products toward clinical application or commercialization.

Antibody Therapy to Treat Orphan Disease Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

Lead Investigator: Yiping Han, PhD, professor of microbial sciences. Co-Investigator: Timothy Wang, MD, professor of medicine

Han is researching the impact of antibody therapy on familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a rare inherited disease in which hundreds of thousands of polyps appear in the intestine. Left untreated, 100% of these patients will develop colorectal cancer by the time they are in their 40s. Currently, the only way to treat FAP is through colectomy, a partial or complete removal of the colon—Han wants to change that. Besides the risks and complications of surgery, the patients may still develop cancers elsewhere in the body. In collaboration with Wang, division chief of digestive and liver diseases, Han and her lab have already identified a novel oncotarget to treat this inherent disease. Their project will focus on use of antibody therapy to reduce the tumor load to prevent or delay the need of surgery.

Flora Momen-Heravi

Using Engineered Exosomes for Genome Editing of Lung Cancer Targeting KRAS Mutation”

Lead Investigator: Flora Momen-Heravi, DDS, PhD, assistant professor of dental medicine

Momen-Heravi is utilizing the body’s natural transport system as a delivery platform for targeted gene editing in the lung for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Exosomes are small vesicles shed by all cells in the cellular microenvironment and carry and deliver biomacromolecules. Momen-Heravi has developed engineered exosomes with the capacity to directly target the KRAS oncogene with CRISPR/Cas technology (CASexo). These CASexos have lung-specific targeting moieties on their surface and are able to carry endogenous active Cas9 proteins and sgRNA targeting the specific KRAS mutation. The goal of this study is to demonstrate that exosome delivery of KRAS-targeted gene editing is effective in animal models of NSCLC.

Read more in the announcement “Pushing Scientific Innovation from the Lab to Market” from the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.


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