More than 100 approved drugs in the U.S. warn of immune-related side effects on their labels. Countless others never make it onto shelves because of unwanted immune responses that can harm patients and limit the effectiveness of drug candidates.
Most gene therapies, for instance, use viruses to enter a person’s cells and alter their DNA. But those viruses often elicit immune responses that can have unpredictable consequences and, in some cases, eliminate potential benefits associated with the treatment.
Selecta Biosciences is working to overcome those problems with a nanoparticle-based system, called ImmTOR, that has been shown to control human immune responses in preliminary clinical data. The company is pairing its ImmTOR technology with biological drugs that can cause unwanted immune responses, to increase the drugs’ effectiveness and safety… Continue reading.
Omid Farokhzad has, as he says, “been around the block a few times” in biotech. The cancer nanomedicine researcher has cofounded a handful of companies that have tried to develop nanotech-based and other drugs for cancer and other diseases. But their results have been mixed. BIND Therapeutics had some clinical disappointments and went bankrupt in 2016 (with its assets going to Pfizer). And Selecta Biosciences this year had to stop a Phase 1 study after a patient death (although clinical testing of another Selecta drug is still underway under the helm of a new CEO).
The setbacks haven’t deterred Farokhzad from trying again with another biotech, this time, pivoting away from therapeutics and diving into diagnostics and early detection of cancer and neurological disease. And he’s all in. He quit his job as a professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital earlier this year, leaving academia and moving from Boston to San Francisco, to devote himself as CEO of his latest company, Seer, which debuted today. This is Farokhzad’s first time as a CEO and as a full-time biotech employee. He’s chairman of Selecta, and sits on the board of Tarveda Therapeutics, another company he cofounded, but he says he was too excited about Seer to be just a board member. “I needed to have my finger on the pulse of the company,” he says… Continue reading.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Columbia University researchers have developed a microscopic medicine that could be used to help prevent heart attacks caused by atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque (mainly cholesterol deposits) within the arteries. This thickening of the artery walls decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to vital body organs and extremities, which can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries continues to be the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., and about one half of all strokes in this country are caused by atherosclerosis.
“The inflammation-resolving targeted nanoparticles have shown exciting potential not only for the potential treatment of atherosclerosis as described here, but also other therapeutic areas, including wound repair,” says study co-senior author Omid Farokhzad, MD, Director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at BWH and Harvard Medical School (HMS). “These are exciting times in medicine, and the future of nanomedicine is incredibly bright.”
Omid Farokhzad, MD, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at BWH, has been awarded the Golden Door Award from the International Institute of New England for his innovations in nanotechnology that have made considerable impacts on patients and the economy.
Farokhzad has developed numerous nanotechnologies for medical applications and brought targeted nanoparticles from discovery to human clinical trials. In 2013, he received the RUSNANOPRIZE, one of the largest international nanotechnology prizes, for the development and industrialization of nanoparticle technologies for medical applications.
Farokhzad has launched three biotechnology companies: BIND Therapeutics, Selecta Biosciences and Blend Therapeutics. He currently serves on the board of directors of Selecta and Blend, and was elected to the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows.
The Golden Door Award honors individuals of immigrant descent who have represented and continue to represent exceptional examples of what life as a new American can become.
The International Institute of New England is a non-profit organization based in Boston that strives to help refugees and immigrants become active participants in the social, political and economic richness of American life.
Omid Farokhzad, MD, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at BWH and associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, was recently named one of two 2013 Laureates of the RUSNANOPRIZE, the largest international nanotechnology prize, for his work in advancing nanoparticle technologies. Farokhzad is being recognized in the field of Nanomaterials and Surface Modification for his role in the innovation, development and industrialization of nanoparticle technologies for medical applications.
The award is also given to a company that has achieved significant commercial success due to implementation of the winning research. Given this, the RUSNANOPRIZE also recognizes BIND Therapeutics, cofounded by Farokhzad, for successfully applying his winning research into industrial production. BIND’s lead drug candidate is BIND-014, which is a targeted and controlled release nanoparticle in phase II clinical trials for treatment of lung and prostate cancers. BIND-014 is the first targeted and controlled release nanoparticle technology to reach human clinical trial.
Farokhzad received his MA and MD from the Boston University School of Medicine, and went on to complete his residency at BWH and research training in the laboratory of Professor Robert Langer at MIT, with whom he co-founded BIND and shares the 2013 RUSNANOPRIZE. He has served as director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at BWH since establishing the lab in 2004. Additionally, he is a faculty member of the Brigham Research Institute Cancer Research Center. Over the course of his career, Farokhzad has authored approximately 100 papers and holds more than 125 issued or pending U.S. and international patents. The award ceremony and the gala reception for the RUSNANOPRIZE will be held in Moscow on November 1st, 2013.
The 3 million ruble (~$94,000) international prize was established in 2009 and is awarded annually to up to three researchers, scientists and developers whose discoveries and innovations foster the growth of the nanotechnology industry. It promotes science and business integration, public awareness of the achievements in the nanotechnology area, international cooperation and acknowledgement of the role of scientists and manufacturers.
Omid Farokhzad’s vision of medicine’s future sounds a lot like science fiction.
He sees medicine scaled down, with vanishingly small nanoparticles playing a big role, delivering drug doses measured in molecules directly to cancerous tumors.
He sees “theranostic” particles that not only deliver nanotherapy, but also beam back diagnostic images of changing tumor cells. He sees “smart” nanoparticles that release tiny doses of drugs, such as insulin, in response to body conditions, like changing blood sugar levels.
Farokhzad sees nanoparticle-based vaccines that can take the joy out of smoking and reverse allergies, and the development of therapeutic nanoparticles that can be taken orally instead of injected, opening whole new classes of medications, like cholesterol-lowering statins, to nanoparticle therapy.
An associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Farokhzad sees these things because he’s helping bring them to reality. Of the seven targeted nanoparticle-based drug candidates currently in human trials, two are based on technologies developed in part in his lab.
In the nine years since he established the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Harvard Medical School, the research of Dr. Omid Farokhzad has formed the foundation of three biotechnology startup.
Those firms — BIND Therapeutics in Cambridge and Selecta Bioscience and Blend Therapeutics in Watertown — now employ 120 people and have collectively raised $210 million in venture backing and signed long-term partnerships with pharmaceutical companies worth $2 billion.
All three firms are exploring ways to commercialize the advances in nanomaterials and nanoscience made in Farokhzad’s lab at Harvard Medical School. And while he remains a close adviser to the leadership of those companies, Farokhzad has chosen to continue to focus on the science.
Big thinker Omid Farokhzad is thinking small.
How small? “The typical nanotechnology we develop is on the order of 100 nanometers in size, enough to put a thousand side by side on the cross-section of a hair,” said Farokhzad, 44, a biotech pioneer who believes he has found the silver bullet in medicine — targeted nanoparticles that encapsulate drugs and deliver their precious cargo directly to diseased cells. His mentor, famed MIT scientist Robert Langer, counts Farokhzad among a new breed of visionary physician-scientists who translate academic innovations into vital biotech start-ups.
Farokhzad, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, holds 65 patents that helped create three companies developing breakthrough therapeutics, including BIND Bioscience, Selecta Biosciences, and Blend Therapeutics. These start-ups have raised more than $200 million and employ 100 scientists, bringing nanoparticle vaccines and targeted anticancer drugs to the market.
Over the past several decades, scientists have faced challenges in developing new antibiotics even as bacteria have become increasingly resistant to existing drugs. One strategy that might combat such resistance would be to overwhelm bacterial defenses by using highly targeted nanoparticles to deliver large doses of existing antibiotics.
In a step toward that goal, researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle designed to evade the immune system and home in on infection sites, then unleash a focused antibiotic attack.
This approach would mitigate the side effects of some antibiotics and protect the beneficial bacteria that normally live inside our bodies, says Aleks Radovic-Moreno, an MIT graduate student and lead author of a paper describing the particles in the journal ACS Nano.
Institute Professor Robert Langer of MIT and Omid Farokzhad, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are senior authors of the paper. Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT undergraduates Vlad Puscasu and Christopher Yoon also contributed to the research.