Thank you for your interest in the third Memphis Scipreneur Challenge!

The deadline for submitting preferences is 12:00 PM on Wed, January 16, 2019. Submit yours below.

  1. Cell Engineering for the Treatment of Lupus
    • Scientific Mentor: Dr. Marko Radic (University of TN Health Science Center)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by wide-spread inflammation, immune disturbance and multi-organ tissue damage. SLE consists of periods of remission followed by episodes of disease flare that respond poorly to current pharmacotherapy.  B cells are the main culprits in SLE, as they produce autoantibodies that are diagnostic and potentially pathogenic due to their ability to form immune complexes, activate complement and cause tissue damage. For this reason, B cells are targets of SLE therapies that are either approved or in development. However, progress in developing effective and targeted treatments has been slow and disappointing. Currently, there are no curative therapies for SLE; therefore, there is an immediate demand for novel therapeutic interventions specifically targeting B cells.The current technology extends the recent success of CAR mediated B cell modalities in animal models of hematologic cancers, which have demonstrated the possibility to target B cells therapeutically.  The technology differs from current lupus therapies because it applies the therapeutic efficacy and targeting specificity of CAR T cells to a clinical problem that currently lacks effective treatments.  The cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), engineered in vitro to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) directed against CD19, effectively depleted B cells and thus eliminated autoantibodies, the main source of tissue-damage.
  2. Injectable and Long-acting Insulin to Treat Type 1 Diabetes
    • Scientific Mentor:  Dr. Tao Lowe (University of TN Health Science Center)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: Type 1 diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by little or no insulin secretion from the pancreatic beta cells because of the complete destruction of beta cells by body’s immune system. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 422 million people worldwide had diabetes mellitus in 2014. As the pancreas no longer produces insulin in type 1 diabetes, insulin replacement therapy has been the mainstay of treatment for type 1 diabetes. In healthy individuals, insulin is continuously secreted from pancreas at a rate of 0.5-1 Unit/h throughout the day to maintain the basal insulin level necessary to maintain blood glucose level. In type 1 diabetes, daily injections of long-acting insulin analogues are usually prescribed to maintain the basal insulin level for a 24 h period.Daily injections of insulin formulations are invasive and painful, and present safety issues as well as medication non-adherence among patients. There is an unmet need of a delivery system that can deliver insulin for longer than 24 h duration after single Sub-Q injection to address the safety issues and improve patient compliance in diabetes market.The researchers developed and currently evaluate injectable formulations that can continuously release insulin for two weeks after a single Sub-Q injection. The formulation could conceivably serve as a platform for the slow release of different drugs.
  3. Antifungal and Antibiotic Drug Delivery Material for Wound Care
    • Scientific Mentor: Dr. Amber Jennings (University of Memphis)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: A novel material with the unique ability to deliver hydrophobic antifungal and hydrophilic antibiotics to wound sites.
  4. Guided Bone Regeneration Technology
    • Scientific Mentor: Dr. Joel Bumgardner (University of Memphis)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: A novel material has been developed for dental implants that could lead to better patient outcomes.
  5. Use of metabolic drugs to treat influenza infection
    • Scientific Mentor: Dr. Heather Smallwood (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: Influenza infection is a worldwide health and financial burden posing a significant risk to the immune-compromised, obese, diabetic, elderly, and pediatric populations. We identified increases in metabolism in the lungs of immune-compromised patients infected with respiratory pathogens. Using quantitative mass spectrometry we found metabolic changes occurring after influenza infection in primary human respiratory cells, and defined the molecular underpinnings of these changes. We developed a metabolic drug screen and high-throughput titer on human respiratory cells to identify potential drugs targets. Several targets were identified that had efficacy in vitro and/or in vivo. There remains a need for methods of treating viral infections (i.e., influenza viral infection) via alternative methods that are less likely to generate viral escape. Here we propose that metabolic pathways are an outstanding host target that the virus cannot easily escape from, that viral infection results in metabolic reprogramming of host cells, and thus that metabolic targets are ideal for therapeutic intervention. Researchers at St. Jude have invented a way to treat viral infections using known drugs or combinations of drugs, based on specific structures, in appropriate amounts, with pharmaceutical salts, and/or antiviral agent, and/or an agent to weaken the immune system; and a carrier. They have also invented kits comprising the same.
  6. Immune cells with DNMT3A gene modifications
    • Scientific Mentor: Ben Youngblood (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
    • Business Mentor: TBD
    • Description: Chemotherapy is the standard of care for the treatment of many types of cancer, but alternative methods are needed when chemotherapy is not effective. T cell therapy is one increasingly effective alternative treatment, which uses the human immune system to attack cancerous cells by finding specific proteins expressed on certain cancerous hematological cells. For example, T cells altered to bind CD19 can induce remissions of cancer with chemotherapy-refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.Researchers at St. Jude discovered the DNMT3A gene in immune cells may be used in adoptive T cell therapies to enhance immune responses against cancer or chronic infections by deleting, changing, or inserting nucleotides within the DNMT3A gene in immune cells. Modified DNMT3A cells can be engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) specific to a cancer or chronic pathogen, and transferred to a patient for treatment in combination with immune checkpoint blockade therapies. In addition to T cells, this could be used in other immune cells with various antibodies to overcome cancer, or chronic viral and/or bacterial infection.

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