TAF Impact: Improving Cancer Treatment
Cancer is dangerous because it is good at evading the immune system. Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment and SUNY Distinguished Professor Clinton Rubin wants to make it more cost effective, accessible and timely for patients in need.
T cells, which develop from stem cells in the bone marrow, help protect the body from infection. With CAR-T immunotherapy, doctors remove the patient’s own T cells from the bloodstream, genetically engineer the cells with a specific receptor that will target cancer cells, and then reinfuse them back into the patient so they can find and home in on and kill cancer cells that they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to see.
Rubin, who is the founding chair of Stony Brook’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, performed pioneering work in understanding the role of mechanical signals in defining the musculoskeletal system, and then used these signals to treat injury and diseases such as osteoporosis and obesity.
The problem with the current approach to CAR-T immunotherapy, he explains, is that the bioreactors used to modify the T cells are expensive and the genetic engineering process can take up to two weeks. Reducing that time by as little as 3-4 days would give the cancer less time to grow and result in better patient outcomes. “TAF provided proof of principle funding to use our own strategy and our own intellectual property to see if this noninvasive mechanical strategy works to accelerate proliferation of T cells,” said Rubin.
“What keeps me going is the hope that my science helps people,” Rubin explains. “The impact is to leverage the wonderful therapeutic value of CAR-T and make it available sooner for more people.”
About SUNY TAF
A significant obstacle to the commercial development of university technology is the lack of funding for promising discoveries after government-sponsored support ends and before a licensee or venture-capital support is secured. The SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (SUNY TAF) program was established in 2011 to help bridge that gap for SUNY researchers. SUNY TAF targets critical research and development milestones—such as feasibility studies, prototyping, and testing—which demonstrate that an idea or innovation has commercial potential. The goal is to increase the likelihood of potential investors and other partners to translate these early-stage technologies into products and services with transformational capabilities.
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