Prof. Avi Schroeder
Drug delivery systems in use today surprisingly dispatch only 10% or less of a drug dose to the tumor, with the remaining 90% distributed elsewhere in the body. “It’s better than untargeted systems, but it’s far from ideal,” says Prof. Schroeder.
Schroeder and his team are developing nanosized “factories” that manufacture protein-based cancer drugs inside the body upon reaching the tumor site. Mimicking the protein-manufacturing strategy found in nature, the factories contain ribosomes, amino acids and enzymes—the building blocks needed to synthesize the desired protein-based drug.
At 150 nanometers or smaller—1/1,000 the diameter of a strand of hair, these factories are injected into the patient and circulate in the blood until finding the tumor. Since many tumors have leaky blood vessels with pores that are several hundred nanometers wide, these factories are small enough to penetrate.
Other researchers have developed systems that release drugs inside the tumor, but Prof. Schroeder and his team are the first to manufacture drugs inside the tumor. “This is the first proof of concept that you can actually synthesize new compounds from inert starting materials inside the body,” says Schroeder.
His system promises to allow physicians to tailor drugs specifically for each patient, and will allow the patient to receive a more concentrated dose of the drug only where it is necessary, thus escaping the harsh side effects.
After earning his PhD at Ben Gurion University and postdoctoral studies at MIT with Prof. Robert Langer, Schroeder returned to Israel. Courted by several universities, he received a Horev Fellowship through the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation Leaders In Science and Technology Faculty Recruitment Program, and accepted a position at the Technion in 2012.
Prof. Schroeder is widely published and has received more than 20 awards including TevaTech Graduate Student Award in Chemistry and Biology, Intel PhD-Student Award for Research in Nanotechnology, the Wolf Foundation PhD-Student Award, the prestigious Polymer Advanced Technologies 2013 Young Scientific Talents Award, and the Allon Fellowship.