Angel Porgador of Ben-Gurion University believes that “Natural killer cells” are the future of cancer treatments. A recent study reveals that proteins in the cell membranes of cancer inhibit the body’s immune system, actually supporting the cancer to proliferate—while such proteins were known to exist in the nucleus and cytoplasm they were not known to be present in cancer cell membranes. The Israeli researcher believes that these membrane proteins could potentially offer targets for novel new treatments.
The Preclinical Research: A Novel Discovery
Professor Porgador and team utilized mouse cells to develop an antidote to the inhibiting proteins in the from of an antibody. Currently in the laboratories of Ben-Gurion university, they are in the process of transforming the mouse antibody into an investigational product that can work on human cells. An ambitious pursuit, they ultimately seek an FDA-approved therapy that would be administered intravenously or intramuscularly to patients.
Biotech Start-up and Incubator Funding
The intellectual property developed by Ben-Gurion with support of the university’s National Institute of Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) has attracted government funding and biotech sponsor partners. Pink Bio-pharma now leads the preclinical research. Created by Israeli biotech incubator FutuRx, they have attracted funding by the Israel Innovation Authority.
As it turns out, FutuRx, a creation of prominent industry sponsors and the Israeli government, monitors and licenses academic research projects that can translate to commercial products. Once they fully understood Professor Porgador’s research, they embraced the investment opportunity.
Breakdown of Israeli Players in this Collaboration
National Institute of Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN)
NIBN represents a unique research institute located within Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Established in 2009, it is a self-organized, independent research entity established under the auspices of a university in Israel. It was formed via a trilateral agreement between the Israeli government, Mr. Edgar de Picciotto and Ben-Gurion University.
They conduct multi-disciplinary research guided by a clear biotechnology vision to bridge the gap between basic and applied innovative research to facilitate commercialization of novel ideas and technologies developed by NIBN researchers. NIBN focuses on a number of therapeutic areas from cancer and infectious disease to metabolic disease and human genetic disorders.
FutuRX is a creation of Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JJDC), Takeda Pharmaceutical Company through its venture group Takeda Ventures Inc. and OrbiMed Israel Partners which partnered with Office of the Israeli Innovation Authority of the Ministry of Economy in a national initiative to transform breakthrough discoveries into novel medicines by applying a unique structure of equally balanced partnership among its three founding organizations.
Ping Bio-pharma was incubated within FutuRX. A firm that is led by Professor Angel Porgador (the inventor) as well as Dr. Rachel Eren as CEO who earned her PhD from Weizmann Institute of Science and a MHA from Ben-Gurion University.
Ben-Gurion University, The Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology
The Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics has 16 senior faculty members and over 50 graduate students. The department is involved in a number of critical research including cancer research, infectious diseases, immunology and cell biology. Major research topics in cancer and immunology include a focus on the mechanisms of the formation of metastasis and how they evade the immune system. They also focus on the development of vaccines for the treatment or prevention of tumors as well as other activities such as the mode of action of anti-cancer drugs.