In 2012, the TAU Center for Nanoscience & Nanotechnology was selected 1st among 30 applicants by the Israeli National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI) to launch research on nanomedicines for personalized "theranostics" for cancer, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases.
Theranostics is a much-anticipated proposed process of diagnostic therapy. The goal: to design a new class of drugs that can destroy faulty proteins and to deliver these drugs in a way that is safe for each patient. The viability of this course of action hinges on nanotechnology and nanosystems.
Prof. Peer initiated, authored, organized the team and has been appointed director of this collaborative initiative. INNI awarded him a $5.75 million grant over five years based on a Tel Aviv University commitment to provide one-to-one matching funds from its own operating budget and donor funds, for a total of $11.5 million at $2.3 million per year.
Dr. Peer is a world leader in nanomedicine and has made substantial contributions that are already under clinical evaluation. He holds more than 40 issued and pending patents; his technology has been licensed by small biotech companies and big pharma.
The TAU project includes 11 investigators — eight from Tel Aviv University, three from other Israeli universities.
Drug delivery is one of the fastest growing healthcare sectors, increasing at a rate of 15 percent per year. Innovative drug-delivery systems — in this case, nano-sized vectors for tumor targeting and synthetic macromolecular therapeutics — are now making an important contribution in the fight against cancer and other diseases. Tel Aviv University's unique interdisciplinary team will work together, across on- and off-campus boundaries, to create and define novel theranostic nanosystems made from naturally occurring biomaterials. The Laboratories include:
- THE ITAI BENHAR LAB will engineer antibodies to act as targeting molecules that can direct nanocarriers to different cancer and inflammatory cell types.
- THE GALIA BLUM LAB (at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) will develop theranostic probes to be used by the entire team in vivo to evaluate protein activity, which is an important indicator of cancer, cardiac and inflammatory disease progression.
- THE AYELET DAVID LAB (at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) will explore the use of novel sugar-based polymer conjugates as drug and gene delivery systems for cancer therapy and diagnosis.
- THE EHUD GAZIT LAB will use proprietary closed-caged, protein-based and inorganic-based materials to build carriers for optical imaging and delivery of therapeutic payloads.
- THE JONATHAN LEOR LAB will target inflammatory pathways, specifically the white blood cells in cardiac tissue, to optimize their repair and regeneration.
- THE RIMONA MARGALIT LAB will test the viability of patented bio-adhesive technology to serve as a carrier for both imaging and therapeutic agents in cancer, inflammation and cardiovascular disorders.
- THE SHULAMIT MICHAELI LAB (at Bar-Ilan University), in 2003, discovered the RNA- interference (RNAi) mechanism that silences disease-causing genes. The Lab's INNI work will take the next step, using different strategies to deliver RNAi payloads into trypanosomes — ubiquitous, single-cell parasites of insects, plants, birds, bats, fish, amphibians and mammals.
- THE MOSHE PORTNOY LAB will supply the novel-imaging platform that will support the work of other team members.
- THE RONIT SATCHI-FAINARO LAB will generate nanoparticles as imaging and therapeutic agents for cancer. Dr. Satchi-Fainaro holds more than 15 patents in the field.
- THE DORON SHABAT LAB will build synthetic probes that can be incorporated into a chemotherapeutic agent to form a prodrug that is activated by over-expressed enzymes in tumors.
- THE DAN PEER LAB is examining inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that affect 0.5-1% of the Western World population and are highly resistant to conventional treatment. The Lab will use its own proprietary platform to encapsulate siRNAs (silencing RNAs) and direct them to IBD-significant inflammatory cells.