Singapore, 12 October 2021 – Scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School have partnered with Singapore biotechnology company Xylonix to optimise liposome drug formulations and develop companion diagnostics for Xylonix’s novel cancer immunity drug, called 010DS-Zn.
Led by Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Chacko from Duke-NUS’ Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Programme, the research team aims to enhance uptake of 010DS-Zn by tumours using a nanoscale drug delivery system, where specially-designed liposomes carry both the drug and radioisotopes to permit real-time detection in living systems.
“Enabled by in vivo nuclear medicine imaging, we can optimise the physiochemical properties of liposomes so that they are stable, have balanced drug-loading and drug-release profiles, and can be delivered to the tumour for a therapeutic effect that is comparable, if not superior, to the drug when given alone,” said Asst Prof Chacko, who co-leads the Cancer ImmunoTherapy Imaging (CITI) Programme which is a national consortium with leading experts from 12 research organisations across Singapore.
“Our team will also explore opportunities to use our multi-functional 010DS-Zn-loaded liposome as in vivo companion diagnostics, to guide targeted delivery and dosing strategies at the clinical development stage,” added Asst Prof Chacko.
A first-in-class tumoricidal compound with immune-initiating activities, 010DS-Zn has demonstrated potential for treating multiple cancer types and complications arising from COVID-19 infection by removing abnormally accumulating macrophages.
“The integration of immunity drug translation and imaging capabilities at CITI enabled optimal paths for our 010DS-Zn development with significantly reduced development risks and trial costs through the in vivo companion diagnostic strategy. We look forward to this partnership with Duke-NUS, and hope to expand it further for future clinical studies in Singapore through CITI programme,” said Dr Jinhyuk Chung, Chief Science Officer at Xylonix.
Liposomes, a classic drug delivery system, are spherical vesicles composed of non-toxic phospholipid bilayers that closely resemble cell membranes. They can carry different types of drugs to more effectively treat diseases like cancer, which is a leading cause of death in Singapore and around the world. But the potential application of liposomes as a drug-delivery system spans well beyond the field of cancer therapy. The technology could also significantly impact areas including infectious diseases and vaccine development, with the novel mRNA SARS-CoV-2 vaccines already relying on similar lipid-based nanoparticle delivery.
Associate Professor Christopher Laing, Vice-Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke-NUS, said, “This partnership offers great potential to improve treatment outcomes for cancer patients. But it also opens the door to revolutionise therapeutics for other areas including infectious diseases where we currently rely on a whole-body approach to treatment. If successful, this exciting project will enhance health and improve the lives of patients in Singapore and around the world.”
This research collaboration is supported in part by Singapore’s Health and Biomedical Sciences (HBMS) Industry Alignment Fund Pre-Positioning (IAF-PP) grant.