A new bank for liver cancer

Woodland Biosciences, a preclinical contract research organization based outside Boston, has been awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the NIH National Cancer Institute to establish a hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tumor bank with co-applicant Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Under the grant, liver tumors from American patients will be characterized and banked; the tumors will then be made available from Woodlands for use in patient-derived xenograft models.

Woodlands president and CSO Michael Briggs commented on the collaboration's plans in a press release, saying, “Our phase I milestones are to demonstrate stable expansion of tumors and to test their sensitivity to existing HCC drug therapies in vitro and in vivo. MGH will perform oncogene screens in phase I with deeper molecular characterization planned for phase II. In Q3 2017 we will welcome biopharma companies seeking to partner on early PDX studies in American-enriched HCC.”

HIV support from NIH

The National Institutes of Health has recently announced academic as well as commercial grants in support of HIV/AIDS research. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded three scientists the 2017 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS research. The recipients—Michael Farzan of The Scripps Research Institute, Eric Poeschla of University of Colorado Denver, and Peter Kim of Stanford University—will each receive $500,000 per year for five years to support novel research into HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has awarded GeoVax Labs of Atlanta, GA, a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant to support the company's HIV vaccine development program. The $658,159 grant will fund preclinical studies of GeoVax's GOVX-B11 preventative vaccine in nonhuman primates.

Pump Priming Awards

Researchers in the UK are invited to apply for the second and final Pump Priming Awards from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC). Twelve to 25 awardees will receive £20-40,000 in financial support to obtain and establish a colony of knock-out mouse lines developed by the IMPC, and to conduct preliminary biological investigations that will provide a platform for longer-term work.

In 2016, 15 awardees received an average of £33,000. The deadline for the 2017 award is July 6, 2017; recipients will be announced in November.

Rare metabolic disorders collaboration

ERYTECH Pharma of Lyon, France, has announced a collaboration with the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, to support preclinical development of ERYTECH's erymethionase program for homocystinuria, a rare disease that affects methionine metabolism. The collaboration will use a mouse model developed by Warren Kruger at Fox Chase to test the treatment's in vivo efficacy.

Kruger commented in a press release, “ERYTECH's approach with erymethionase has significant potential in this disease setting because it can reduce the levels of both homocysteine and methionine in blood plasma which is critical in restoring the metabolic balance in individuals with classical homocystinuria. We look forward to working with ERYTECH to advance this preclinical program to determine its potential as a therapeutic option for homocystinuria patients.”

Blood and platelets from stem cells

Researchers at King's College London will provide in vivo safety and efficacy testing of a blood platelet substitute developed by Plasticell, a biotechnology company based in Stevenage, UK, focused on stem cell therapies. The researchers will use platelets produced by Plasticell from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The company will also be exploring whether it can manufacture red blood cells from pluripotent stem cells, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and with funding support from Innovate UK.

Expanded IACUC programming at PRIM&R

PRIM&R, an advocacy group for public responsibility in medicine and research, has announced the addition of new and expanded animal care and use programming. The changes were made based on feedback from the IACUC community. Information and resources relevant to those involved with animal care and use will be available and increasingly highlighted in PRIM&R publications, projects, and workshops.

Careers Update

Katherine Marshall has been chosen as the 2017 US Recipient of the AAALAC International Fellowship Award. Marshall is a graduate of Portland State University and a 20-year veteran at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) in Portland, OR. She currently serves as the resource manager for the Small Animal Laboratory Unit, responsible for managing staff, training, and husbandry for over 3,000 animals.

The fellowship recognizes technicians for their commitments to laboratory animal science and their contributions to laboratory animal care and use. For US recipients, the fellowship funds a week-long internship at a UK institute as well as attendance at the Institute of Animal Technology Congress.