Northeastern receives $13.5M award for Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence

Northeastern University has been designated as a Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence funded by a highly competitive, five-year, $13.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). The University will establish the Center for Translational Cancer Nanomedicine where a multidisciplinary team of scientists, industry and government partners will develop cancer treatments from discovery to delivery.

Through the new center—included in the second phase of the NCI’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer program—Northeastern researchers will create new drugs that target cancer cells, advance technology on how nanocarriers deliver these drugs, and utilize imaging tools that track how they travel through the body. The Boston Globe highlighted theaward here.

“The idea is that a lot of people are doing excellent research in the field of nanomedicine, but in 95 percent of the cases this research ends with a good publication,” said Vladimir Torchilin, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences. “The most difficult part is the next step—if you have good results, how do you turn those results into products?”

Led by Torchilin, the new center’s research and development partnership includes Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School and Auburn University. The partners will work together to develop a continuous path from basic research to industrial production of cancer nanomedicines—thereby narrowing the gap between discovery and early development of cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.

In addition to the Center of Excellence designation, the alliance has awarded Northeastern distinguished professor Mansoor Amiji with a five-year, $2.32 million grant as part of the Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnership program. Amiji, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Bouve’s School of Pharmacy, will collaborate with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital to develop treatment for multidrug resistant forms of lung and ovarian cancer. The work involves using nanoparticles and gene silencing techniques to more efficiently target tumors and reverse their resistance to anti-cancer therapies. The researchers will also create a library of nanoparticles they can screen and select from when treating various forms of cancer.

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment for Vladimir and his team, and it is well deserved recognition of the quality of his research,” said Stephen Zoloth, dean of Bouvé, which is home to several centers focusing on biotechnology, nanomedicine, drug discovery, and public health research. “It is centers of excellence like these that make Northeastern a hub of translational research that can lead to breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

The new center will help accelerate the momentum of use-inspired research leading to important discoveries in health—one of three Northeastern research themes, including security and sustainability, aimed at solving pressing global challenges.

“It is the responsibility of leading research universities to solve the greatest challenges of our time,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “Northeastern has been at the forefront of nanotechnology innovation and discovery in several areas of global significance. With this new center we are taking research at the frontiers of medical science to the next level.”

Northeastern University is home to a strong base of interdisciplinary nanotechnology research, and is an ideal location for this new center, which will collaborate with other centers of nanotechnology research. The George J. Kostas Nanoscale Technology and Manufacturing Research Center at Northeastern, whichis part of the University’s Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing, as well as the Center for Translational NeuroImaging and the IGERT Nanomedicine Science and Technology program will all work in partnership with the new center.