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Announcing the 2013 Minnesota Futures Award Recipients


The University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013 Minnesota Futures grants. This year’s winning projects focus on new cancer treatments.

Maximizing Magnetic Relaxation and Heating in Nanoparticle Therapeutics

Co-investigators: Christy Haynes, Chemistry; John Bischof, Mechanical Engineering; Chris Hogan, Mechanical Engineering; Michael Garwood, Radiology

There is currently a large effort worldwide to clinically translate alternating magnetic field (AMF) induced iron oxide nanoparticle (IONP) heating for cancer treatment. Modified IONPs are also used for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), facilitate drug delivery and improve the speed and uniformity of thawing from a cryopreserved state.

For IONP thermal therapies to be successfully translated into a clinical environment, enhancements over the existing methods in image guidance, heating and therapeutic ratio are critically needed. The goal of this collaboration is to produce an IONP with superior heating and imaging properties that will provide a level of clinical planning for both heating and drug delivery that is not currently possible. The project will also allow for further functionalization (drug loading and systemic targeting) and use in cryopreservation technology in the future.

The research team will work to optimize these nanoparticles to create a platform poised for clinical and commercial translation.

Targeting Metastatic Breast Cancer with Dual Specificity

Co-investigators: Benjamin Hackel, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science; Jayanth Panyam, Pharmaceutics; Deepali Sachdev, Medicine and Pharmacology

While increased awareness and advances in both diagnostic and therapeutic approaches have significantly improved the treatment outcome in breast cancer patients, patients with metastatic disease have poor prognosis. The goal of this collaboration is to develop an anticancer treatment that, in the short-term, will significantly reduce the incidence of metastases and will, eventually, be effective against advanced metastatic disease.

The multidisciplinary team will use yeast surface display and cellular panning technologies to co-discover premetastatic tumor cells that, if eliminated, could inhibit metastases. The team will also develop therapeutic agents using polymeric nanoparticles to target the premetastatic tumor cells and then conduct in vitro studies (in mice) to identify a nanoparticle formulation that is a safe and effective anticancer treatment.

About the Minnesota Futures program

Modeled after the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, the Minnesota Futures program supports extraordinary research by nurturing interdisciplinary ideas. The goal is to develop new ideas to a point where they are competitive for external funding. The award covers expenses of up to $250,000 over two years and is supported by technology commercialization revenue.

Since 2008, the grant has supported research by faculty who go on to win substantial grants and whose innovations reach the market to potentially improve the lives of millions. Just a few success stories of past recipients include:

  • Larry Wackett, biochemistry, received an NSF Partnerships for Innovation grant to study the environmental effects of hydraulic fracking.
  • Vipin Kumar, computer science and engineering, led a team studying global climate change funded by a $10 million NSF grant.
  • John Ohlfest, pediatrics and neurosurgery, was named a 2010 McKnight Land-Grant Professor for his work on brain cancer.
  • David Andow, entomology, won a $3 million NSF grant to study how to better combat invasive species.

Originally published on Research @ the U of M.

Erin Dennis

Erin Dennis

Erin is assistant communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and senior editor of Inquiry.

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