Aura Biosciences Aims to Develop “Ballistic Missile” Drug to Beat Pancreatic Cancer, Deliver RNAi Therapies

3/12/09

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missile,” Muniz wrote in an e-mail. “We know we can send it to a target thousands of miles away and we know the missile is so precise it can penetrate through the window of a building in a specific city, in a specific block, and inside a specific floor.”

Still, the startup isn’t the only game in town using nanotechnology to attack cancer cells. A couple blocks from Aura’s office in Kendall Square, BIND Biosciences is working on polymer-based nanoparticles that also offer a potential way to target and destroy specific cancer cells. BIND scientific founders Bob Langer of MIT and Omid Farokhzad of Harvard Medical School have tested nanoparticles to zero in on prostate cancer cells and deliver chemotherapy drugs. Another local contender is Cerulean Pharmaceuticals.

Aura—which raised its $3 million funding earlier this year from individuals in Europe and the U.S.—is also shopping for an RNAi drug firm to license the technology. There’s been some concern about how RNAi molecules, which offer a promising way to silence disease genes, can be transported intact through the bloodstream and into cells. Luke wrote about how Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY) is approaching the problem to deliver RNAi drugs into liver cancer cells.

De los Pinos, who splits her time between Cambridge and her home in Spain, says that this year her firm plans to compile data from animal tests to provide evidence that its particles can deliver RNAi drugs. The firm also wants to accumulate data to submit to the FDA in order to get permission to begin human clinical trials of its cancer treatments. To limit the firm’s expenses, she says, the company plans to conduct its tests at the European labs where its technology was discovered.

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