February 11, 2020 in HealthTech, News from Our Companies

Lena Biosciences and SpeciCare Announce a Formal Collaboration in Groundbreaking Cancer Research and Treatment

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Lena Biosciences and SpeciCare jointly announced they will be engaging in a formal collaboration to develop and distribute an advanced cancer tumor testing and treatment regimen based on precision functional testing. The two companies have been working together informally over the last nine months.

The companies also announced Dr. Ken Dixon, SpeciCare founder and CEO, has joined Lena Biosciences’ scientific advisory board.

Atlanta-based Lena Biosciences is a health technology company in the Advanced Technology Development Center’s ATDC Accelerate portfolio. The company offers advanced cell culture products and services that increase survival and function of patient cells in vitro for longitudinal studies in biomedical research and drug testing. Its products generate a cellular environment that mimics the human body, allowing cells to resume their normal functions in vitro, resulting in higher assay sensitivities and improved drug metabolism.

Gainesville, Georgia-based SpeciCare is a patient advocacy company that benefits primarily the individual cancer patient and secondarily general cancer research. It does so via a three-pronged approach:

  • Collection of individual patient data and tissues for preservation, distribution, and experimentation.
  • Connection and development of the needed incentivized relationships of the first multi-sided patient centered network with inclusion of all pertinent participants.
  • An electronic medical and research platform to enable the scalable return of cancer research for direct patient benefit through any interested party.

Lena Biosciences’ goal with SpeciCare is to build an ecosystem that will provide cancer patients with relatively low-cost precision functional testing.

These cutting-edge products are applied to grow and expand the number of cancer cells from the patient tumor samples. Often, the number of cancer cells that are isolated from biopsies is insufficient to support precision therapy testing that can answer which drugs or drug combinations would be optimal to conquer the deadly disease.

Lena Biosciences aims to resolve this critical barrier by providing a sufficient number of patients’ cells to test more drugs and to optimize precision medicines for new standards in personalized care.

This out-of-body testing (eliminating the toxicity patients experience with in-body testing) will inform doctors and patients on the best course of therapy based on the optimized drug treatment performed with the patient’s own cancer cells in vitro, said Jelena Vukasinovic, Lena Biosciences CEO.

Every cancer is unique and no two tumors, even for the same cancer, are the same. SpeciCare harvests and maintains the patient’s live tissue for testing using more than 360 different drugs. Personalized therapies are tailored to a patient’s unique cancer- and his or her own specific genetic, xenobiotic, metabolic and functional makeup.

A bottleneck in this process is often the small number of cancer cells obtained from a biopsy as compared to actual tumor resection. Lena is working to remove this barrier by growing and expanding cancer cells for each patient in its lab using tissue samples provided by SpeciCare.

Dr. Dixon has built SpeciCare into a leading precision functional testing company proving in the last two years that this patient-centered live tissue research and treatment approach results in better outcomes for patients and doctors than the current institutional treatment regimen using dead tissue and in-body testing. 

Vukasinovic and her team at Lena Biosciences have developed technology that allows researchers to model multiple human organs in a single biomimetic platform in vitro that can answer which drugs are effective in treating the disease without significant toxic side effects to normal tissues in a human body. These technologies are backed by prestigious awards from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Georgia Research Alliance, and two patents.

“Directing the power of our Perfused Organ Panel towards cancer research, and contributing to an ecosystem that provides cancer patients with low-cost advanced care is a worthy cause and an inspiration”, Vukasinovic said. “We are very excited to have Dr. Dixon join Lena Biosciences’ Scientific Advisory Board. He is the bridge between the clinic and our empowering technologies that will give cancer patients access to state-of-the-art diagnostics and personalized care they deserve.” 

Dr. Dixon stressed the patient tissue control opportunities in this collaboration.

“The teams at SpeciCare and at Lena are in complete agreement that the patient should control his or her tumor tissue for further study to provide patient-centered custom therapies, when standard of care options have failed or are inadequat,” he said. “By combining resources to save the tissue and then grow it so that the specimen is large enough to do this testing, we are working together to achieve this critical step.”

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