Jul. 31, 2019

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Dr. Niv Papo (pictured above) of the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev has been awarded a European Research Council Proof of Concept Grant for continuing development of APPI-3M, a therapeutic protein designed to prevent prostate and pancreatic cancers from metastasizing. The €150,000 grant, which is intended to pursue business opportunities, prepare patent applications or verify the practical viability of scientific concepts, follows an original award in 2013 to begin research on the treatment under the ERC's feasibility study program. 

The grants are part of the EU's research and innovation program, Horizon 2020.

​Distal site tumor metastasis is the leading cause of prostate- and pancreatic-cancer-related deaths; nevertheless, standard-of-care (SoC) treatments and other targeted therapies under development are based on their activity against the primary tumors rather than on their anti-metastatic activity. There is consequently an urgent medical need for new agents targeting the metastatic process. 

In the original ERC project, the researchers used directed evolution to generate a novel prototype mesotrypsin inhibitor, designated APPI-3M, based on the human amyloid β-protein precursor Kunitz protease inhibitor domain (APPI) scaffold. This inhibitor has picomolar affinity, enhanced binding specificity and improved proteolytic resistance to mesotrypsin and exhibits high potency in cell-based and preclinical models of prostate cancer invasion and metastasis. 

"In this PoC proposal, we propose to perform final lead optimization (particularly decreasing body clearance) of APPI-3M towards its commercialization for clinical translation as an anti-metastatic therapeutic adjuvant, with the direct involvement in the planning stage of clinicians and other key opinion leaders in the field. The feedback of these experts is expected to confirm the need to address the problem of metastatic progression and to identify potential indications and therapeutic windows for the use of APPI-3M as a neoadjuvant in prostate and pancreatic cancers," says Dr. Papo. 

PoC grants were created by the ERC proof of concept grants are granted under the rubric of the EU's Research and Innovation program, Horizon 2020. Since 2011, the grants have helped ERC-funded scientists attract capital to make their research marketable and to set up new companies.