Mendoza School of Business

Student Startup Builds ‘Bubbles’ to Deliver Cancer Drugs

Published: May 31, 2016 / Author: Kylie Veleta, Inside Indiana Business

A student-run startup at the University of Notre Dame is generating buzz among pharmaceutical companies searching for better ways to deliver cancer-fighting drugs. Certus Therapeutics, which recently captured the top prize at the university’s annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition, says its technology could greatly reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. The young company hasn’t discovered a drug, but rather, a novel delivery method for existing medications that could prevent cancer patients from feeling even sicker.

Patients who have cancer typically experience negative side effects during chemotherapy because the drug—which aims to stop the growth of cancer cells—can also harm healthy cells; it can’t discriminate between healthy and cancerous tissue.

But these two types of tissue are very different in structure, says Certus. Based on discoveries made in the lab of Notre Dame Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer Dr. Basar Bilgicer, the concept is surprisingly simple.

“The gaps between cells in healthy body tissues and healthy blood vessels are very, very small, but when a tumor starts to form, it doesn’t form properly,” says Notre Dame Integrated Biomedical Sciences graduate student Charissa Quinlan, who is on the student team leading Certus. “The gaps that are between the cells in the vessel wall [of a tumor] are around 100 times larger, so there’s a huge size difference that only happens where the cancer is.”

Read the entire story on the Inside Indiana Business website.

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