Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst diseases that plague humanity – more than 94% of patients diagnosed will lose their fight in less than five years – and 80% in less than one.
Speratum, which means hope in Latin, is the name of my life project. I lead a team of scientists that together seek to complete the development of a new therapy against pancreatic cancer, based on technology invented and patented during my doctoral studies at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
It is a microRNA molecule called miR-198, which we all have at high levels in the normal cells of our bodies. This molecule acts as a tumor suppressor; that is, it is a brake that regulates cell growth. In tumors, the molecule disappears, generating a deficiency that allows the cancer to grow rampant. In addition to growth, this molecule acts as a central regulator in cancer-its lack allows cell invasion and migration to develop, resulting in metastasis and tumors resistant to chemotherapy.
Our innovation consists of generating a synthetic "mimic" of the natural molecule, and which we re-introduce to the body by encapsulating it in a specialized nanoparticle, formed by a new polymer that acts as a capsule, protecting the mimic. The nanoparticles loaded with mimic are injected and flow through the bloodstream, penetrating the tumors, where they release their content, effectively "replacing" the normal functioning of the natural molecule.
The tumors are frozen with the first dose, and little by little they begin to shrink, naturally, without the side effects that accompany chemotherapy. In addition, we have generated a great amount of new intellectual property: the design of our molecule is unique; reduces side effects, is stable, and dosable; using this design as a platform, we can generate equally effective alternatives for other nucleic acid therapies. We have designed a medical device to administer our therapy.
We have demonstrated and patented the application of our therapy in other types of cancer, including ovary and liver, among others. And we have crossed the borders of the species creating a new system of production of the molecule, which can be used to produce a medicine aimed at the veterinary market.
Christian Marin-Müller – PhD, Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine; MS, Entrepreneurial Biotechnology, Case Western Reserve University/Weatherhead School of Management; BS, Molecular Biology, Florida Tech. Dr. Marin-Müller has worked in the field of cancer therapeutics for almost a decade, with a specific focus on the use of RNA interference technology and development of nanotechnology-based delivery of therapeutics against solid tumors.