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Research Cooperation with University of Tokyo:

German-Japanese research group investigates new approaches in cancer treatment

Munich, 06/19/2008

The international research collaboration between Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München and the University of Tokyo, launched last October as part of the institutional strategy LMUexcellent, has begun with a joint research project in the field of pharmaceutical nanotechnology. A German-Japanese research group at LMU Munich is working on the subject of “Smart Drug Nanocarriers and Nanomedicine“ under the supervision of Kazunori Kataoka (Professor at the Center for NanoBio Integration of the University of Tokyo) and Ernst Wagner (Professor of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at LMU Munich and member of the “Center for Nanoscience CeNS“) and the “Nanoinitiative Munich NIM“ cluster of excellence. LMU Munich has established a visiting professorship in the NIM cluster of excellence for Professor Kataoka. “The international research cooperations that we establish with globally leading universities enable us to build the infrastructure required in the advancement of future-oriented research, thus strengthening LMU Munich’s international position in top-level research over the long term,” stated LMU’s President Bernd Huber when welcoming Professor Kataoka to the university today.

The agreement with the University of Tokyo, which ranked highly in a Japanese initiative equivalent to the Excellence Initiative competition, will initially focus on intensifying academic collaboration, primarily in the fields of physics, chemistry and biology – the areas brought together in the newly launched research project. A number of academic staff at Kataoka’s laboratory will work with their colleagues at LMU Munich to investigate and advance new approaches in cancer treatment. The discovery of RNA interference, where targeted genes can be “silenced” by means of short double strands of RNA molecules (siRNA), was awarded the Nobel Prize in recent years and paves the way for an array of new approaches to treatment. “In our cooperation project, we plan to package these siRNA molecules in synthetic viruses developed for the purpose and administer them intravenously to tumor-bearing animals,” explains Kataoka. “Thanks to the properties of these virus-like synthetic nanoparticles, the biomolecules they carry will be transported directly inside the tumor, where they will block the activity of tumor-relevant genes.”

Modern testing methods can deliver proof of the treatment’s success in reducing target gene activity. NIM has already developed the corresponding bioanalytical and imaging processes, and the necessary apparatus is already available. “Kazunori Kataoka’s laboratory develops biomaterials which can be used for an array of biomedical purposes. Some of his approaches are already at the clinical trial stage,” says Wagner. “One area of research focuses on delivery systems to carry therapeutically effective molecules into tumor cells – a subject which is also a key topic of our own work. Our delivery systems are based on synthetic viruses which transport therapeutic nucleic acids such as siRNA directly into tumors.”

Suitable tumor models have already been established at Wagner’s chair. “We can actually point to the first therapeutic effects,” reports Wagner. “We achieved a reduction in target gene activity that can slow tumor growth without toxic side-effects. Now we aim to work with Kazunori Kataoka’s laboratory to design more effective delivery systems and test them on the tumor models.”

Professor Kataoka has taken up his visiting professorship this week as part of an initial research visit to LMU Munich. The internationally famous biotechnologist will hold lectures and specialist discussions, and chair a young academics’ workshop at LMU Munich. He will also hold a public lecture in English on the subject of “Supramolecular Devices as Smart Nanocarriers for Gene and Drug Delivery” at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the University’s Center for Nanoscience (CeNS).


Prof. Dr. Ernst Wagner
Director, Department of Pharmacy
Chair, Pharmaceutical Biology - Biotechnology at LMU Munich
Tel: +49 89 2180-77841
Fax: +49 89 2180-77798




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