ToleRaM Nanotech, LLC, a startup company that specializes in merging bioengineering with medicine, was the recipient of a National TechConnect Innovation Award in 2016. The award is given for technology that has the potential to make a difference in a special sector—in this case, medicine. The top 15 percent of submitted technologies win the prestigious award.
The three founders of the company, formed in January 2014, are all from MUSC and include Carl Atkinson, Ph.D., an expert in immunology and the innate immune system; Ann-Marie Broome, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer with expertise in nanotechnology; and Satish N. Nadig, M.D., Ph.D., a transplant surgeon who also has a doctorate in immunology.
Nadig, the company’s chief medical officer, said he wants to see better outcomes for transplant recipients who often succumb to the systemic side effects of standard immunosuppression treatment.
“What ails our transplant patients is that all of them are susceptible to infections, cancers, diabetes, and general systemic consequences of their very powerful immunosuppressant medications,” said Nadig. “It’s a double-edged sword, because they need these medications to keep them from rejecting their organs.”
The three MUSC scientists have successfully demonstrated in mouse models a way to deliver the immunosuppressant rapamycin via a nanocarrier to a transplanted kidney and its local environment only, leaving the rest of the body’s immune system unaffected. Although rapamycin is a highly effective immunosuppressant that encourages proliferation of suppressive T cells, it is seldom used in the clinic for transplant patients because of its systemic side effects, such as slowing wound healing.
The team’s rapamycin nanocarrier, referred to as TRaM for targeted rapamycin micelle, allows the drug to be used to help prevent kidney rejection without causing such undesired side effects.
Nadig thinks their research could revolutionize the way doctors deliver medications in transplantation. “It potentially will lower rejection of a transplanted organ while allowing the patient to be able to fight off infection and go about a normal life,” said Nadig. “This is exciting to the team, given that 20 percent of people on the transplant list need a re-transplant because they’ve lost their organ to chronic rejection.”