Sharks’ blood could help fight against can­cer

Sci­en­tists dis­cover mol­e­cules at­tack tu­mours

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - NEWS - By sally Mcdon­ald SMCDONALD@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Dr Caro­line Barelle

‘ We be­lieve the mol­e­cules can en­ter and kill can­cer cells

They are feared more for tak­ing lives than sav­ing them but sci­en­tists be­lieve sharks could help in the fight against can­cer.

Re­searchers have been study­ing an­ti­body-like mol­e­cules in shark blood that they be­lieve can help beat can­cer.

And to­day they re­vealed they may be only two years from get­ting the treat­ment to pa­tients.

Dr Caro­line Barelle is lead­ing re­search into the mol­e­cules, trade­marked as solom­ers, and told The Sun­day Post: “With in­vest­ment I hope we would be in clinic in two years.

“We are tar­get­ing solid tu­mours. We be­lieve solom­ers can ‘punch’ deeper into the tu­mour, en­ter­ing and killing can­cer cells.

“We are push­ing for­ward with our pre- clin­i­cal data which is in the late stages of test­ing a new medicine to make sure it does what you think it will bi­o­log­i­cally.

“The next step is then mak­ing the medicine un­der re­ally clean con­di­tions and check­ing it to make sure it is safe be­fore go­ing into clin­i­cal tri­als.

“We are out look­ing for in­vestors and/ or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal part­ners to get us there.” Dr Barelle, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aberdeen Univer­sity’s global biotech firm Elas­mo­gen, reck­ons the treat­ment could also be used to trans­form the lives of pa­tients suf­fer­ing from a range of eye con­di­tions.

And she would love noth­ing more than an in­vestor of the stature of US Mi­crosoft mag­nate and phi­lan­thropist Bill Gates to step up to the plate.

She said: “Bill Gates is a great ex­am­ple of some­one who is rein­vest­ing his wealth to help oth­ers in a truly phil­an­thropic man­ner.

“The Gates Foun­da­tion is com­mit­ted to re­solv­ing dis­eases such as malaria and HIV which af­fect the poor­est peo­ple on this earth.”

Solom­ers first emerged about 20 years ago af­ter a col­lab­o­ra­tive study be­tween the Uni­ver­si­ties of Aberdeen and Mary­land, USA, led to

the dis­cov­ery of an un­usual an­ti­body- like mol­e­cule in the blood of sharks.

Dr Barelle, who still lives in her home city of Aberdeen, said :“These in­cred­i­ble an­i­mals are an­cient hav­ing first ap­peared in our oceans more than 450 mil­lion years ago. They are the old­est an­i­mals with a back­bone to have an im­mune sys­tem sim­i­lar to ours.

“We too are pro­tected by an­ti­bod­ies and by un­der­stand­ing how this in­cred­i­ble pro­tec­tive sys­tem has evolved pro­vides us with in­valu­able in­sights into how we can un­der­stand and crit­i­cally treat many dis­eases.

“My first en­counter with sharks was just more than 12 years ago when I joined a com­pany called Hap­to­gen which started to de­velop medicines based on solom­ers.

“I was then for­tu­nate to con­tinue with this re­search and lead teams within big pharma com­pa­nies who con­tin­ued to de­velop them.

“Dur­ing this time drugs based on other types of an­ti­bod­ies were re­ally chang­ing the lives of pa­tients but they are lim­ited as to what they can do in the body as they are large, com­plex mol­e­cules.

“It was re­ally the po­ten­tial of these un­usual solom­ers that drove me and my co- founder, Andy Porter to start a new com­pany to take these for­ward to the clinic.”

Ex­plain­ing how they work she said: “An­ti­bod­ies are like your per­sonal army – they look for nasty in­vaders in your body like bugs and bind to them and de­stroy them.

“They essen­tially pro­tect your body all your life.

“What sci­en­tists have done is to make an­ti­bod­ies that can find dis­eases in your body like can­cer and de­stroy them. The fan­tas­tic thing about shark solom­ers is that they are tiny an­ti­bod­ies so they can get into smaller spa­ces in the body.

“They are also very, very tough so they last longer. And fi­nally they can be linked to­gether like a daisy chain so they can at­tack more than one dis­ease mol­e­cule. All to­gether solom­ers are pretty cool mol­e­cules that can be made into medicines.”

In recog­ni­tion of her ground­break­ing work Dr Barelle was last year’s win­ner in the Ris­ing Stars: Ex­tra­or­di­nary Tal­ent cat­e­gory of Scot­land’s Life Sciences An­nual Awards.

Sharks, like this Caribbean reef shark, could help tackle dis­ease

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