"When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven't.” — Thomas Edison
March 9, 2021
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Cincinnati has a reputation for CPG, manufacturing, insurtech and fintech but it’s also home to some of the most exciting health care research in the nation, particularly in terms of pioneering cancer treatments. Here’s a look at some of the trails that are being blazed in that arena by Cincinnati institutions.
New combination therapy for head and neck cancers
Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. It can impact the throat, tongue or nose. Treatments currently exist for it but it is a cancer that very often returns. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are testing a new therapy combination using an existing treatment for better results.
Christina Wicker, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Vinita Takiar, MD, led the research using an approved drug to make radiation therapy more effective for head and neck cancer. The drug, telaglenastat, is a glutaminase inhibitor that stops a key enzyme in a cell pathway that becomes altered in cancer cells, causing those cells to grow rapidly and resist treatment.
The data that was collected in animal tests indicate that this combination treatment leads to an enhanced anti-tumor response.
Point-of-care cancer screening
Current methods of detecting cancer involve surgical procedures like biopsies. And then there is the long wait to find out the results.
Leyla Esfandiari, an assistant professor at UC, has created a noninvasive device, and she and her team have found a way to make that process faster, easier and more cost effective. The point-of-care cancer screening and early diagnosis technique uses a small amount of a patient’s biofluids, such as saliva or blood. The patent-pending lab-on-a-chip device can be used in a doctor’s office and produce results within 30 minutes.
“By communicating with clinicians and biologists, you can understand what’s needed and find a really good application for what you’re developing in the lab and you can modify the design based on their needs to make a bigger impact,” Esfandiari said in an article on UC’s website. “It’s so important to bridge that gap between engineering and the medical field.”
The Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center is one of only two centers in the world for Proton Therapy for children with cancer.
The Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center is one of only two centers in the world for Proton Therapy for children with cancer. Proton therapy is a specialized pencil beam technology for treating tumors. While traditional radiation therapy affects everything in its path, including healthy tissues, proton therapy delivers a beam specifically to the tumor to destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
Children’s Hospital has made a $120M investment in the Proton Therapy Center to demonstrate its commitment to this sophisticated cancer treatment.
There is also tech around new treatments that can stop cancer cells from adapting to chemotherapy. Kurome Therapeutics is a preclinical stage therapeutics startup out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that is researching ways to target cancer cells that evade the effects of chemotherapy.
The startup’s process was designed after research by Dan Starczynowski, a professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who has been studying immune signaling pathways for years. The hospital asked drug development professional Jan Rosenbaum to take Starczynowski’s concepts from research to commercialization, and Kurome was born. CincyTech was its seed investor.
The treatment has already shown that it can improve survival rates and extend lives in animal experiments, which could lead to a significant impact if replicated in humans.
These are just a few examples of cutting-edge cancer research going on in the Queen City. Stay tuned to Cincinnati Future as more of them are developed.
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With Refinery Ventures
If you enjoy discovering innovation in surprising places and hearing stories from entrepreneurial leaders, Fast Frontiers is your new must-listen to podcast. Host Tim Schigel, Managing Partner of Refinery Ventures, brings you interviews from leading funders, ecosystem builders, corporate innovators, and startup founders. Your next big idea is one episode away!
Disagree and commit — S2: E7
Disagree and commit is a concept made famous by Jeff Bezos. It's something that's used often among partners in venture firms. Not everybody agrees with an investment idea, but once the investment's made, everybody is pulling in the same direction. Mackey Craven, investor and Forbes 30 under 30 alumnus, explains how this is put into practice to achieve success.
What problem do you really solve? — S2: E8
Are you ready to solve a key problem and build a startup that’s a category king like Uber or Airbnb? Then, play bigger! Kevin Maney, co-author of Play Bigger and advisor at Category Design, joins the Fast Frontiers podcast to provide insight on developing your next big idea.
Navigating in chaos — S2: E9
VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Sound familiar? Thanks, 2020. VUCA is a term that came out of the military. Today, it’s a power tool for companies to create a successful framework for innovation. Author and researcher Bruce Vojak shares how VUCA is put into practice so you too can navigate innovation in chaos and thrive.
You can find the Fast Frontiers podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or their website.
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Meet Midwest startups ready to bust a move
Entrepreneurship is a critical piece of the economy for the Midwest. Phyllis Ellison, executive director of InvestMidwest, believes that we have to grow our own companies, rather than rely on existing corporations and small businesses to carry the burden of employment, taxes, and economic prosperity.
That’s why InvestMidwest is collaborating with the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) at the University of Michigan for the Midwest Venture Showcase scheduled for April 27-28, 2021. We spoke to Ellison for more details.
What are the goals of the Showcase?
Ellison: The goal of InvestMidwest is to highlight the top startups in the Midwest and to give them visibility to venture capitalists drawn from across the country. The virtual event boasts over 40 Tech Transfer spinouts from major research universities across the Midwest that are seeking pre-seed and seed funding.
What can we expect from the Showcase?
Ellison: The Showcase includes a larger selection of about 75 companies in five industry tracks: Life Science, Medical Devices, Tech, Food/Ag and University Technology Transfer. There will be a morning of panel discussions and speakers, followed by the company pitches in the afternoon. The company pitches and profiles will remain accessible to the investors for 30 days, allowing for additional review.
What do you hope comes out of the Showcase?
Ellison: We want to see companies and investors connecting in conversations during and after the Showcase. It takes time for relationships to develop; VCs want to get to know the team before they invest. The goal is to have the relationships that start at the Midwest Venture Showcase translate into more introductions and eventually investments in the companies.
For more information on applying, attending, or sponsoring the Showcase, please visit www.midwestgcs.com or email Emily Zaycosky (MGCS) or www.investmidwestforum.com or email Phyllis Ellison (InvestMidwest).
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