WFU And IntraVec To Develop Innovative Cancer And HIV Treatments

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Leading edge cancer and HIV treatment and prevention strategies may soon be available to patients as the result of the efforts of a new company, IntraVec, Inc., formed by Wake Forest University, where the basic research was done. IntraVec will manage the development process.

IntraVec will build on research done at Wake Forest University School of Medicine by Si-Yi Chen, M.D., Ph.D., a former assistant professor of cancer biology. In developing the new treatments and therapies for trial and use in humans, IntraVec will work with Chen and Malcolm Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine, where Chen is now an associate professor.

The cancer treatments will use "toxic cell" technology in which Chen and his colleagues genetically modified normal cells to produce and secrete a toxin, or poison, that attacks and kills cancer cells but does not harm the carrier cell or other normal cells.

Scientists see this treatment as a major advantage over traditional approaches in which a drug is injected into the bloodstream but only a small amount of it finds its way to the tumor cells. And most cancer drugs also damage other dividing cells, including normal cells.

In human patients, the scientists hope that the altered toxic cells will serve a continuing surveillance function, going after remaining cancer cells that otherwise would multiply again and restart the cancer.

IntraVec's HIV treatments will be based on Chen's discovery of a method for genetically altering white blood cells (lymphocytes) to make them impervious to entry by the HIV virus. During infection by HIV the lymphocytes -- the body's main disease-fighters -- are taken over by the virus, which multiplies there, resulting in AIDS and susceptibility to a variety of potentially deadly illnesses.

Ordinarily, the HIV binds to the host cell through interactio

Contact: Robert Conn, Mark Wright or Jim Steele
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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