LSU HEALTH NEW ORLEANS SPIN-OUT COMPANY AWARDED SBIR GRANT
New Orleans, LA – The National Science Foundation has awarded Chosen Diagnostics, Inc., an LSU Health New Orleans spin-out company, a $224,758 Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I grant. The funding will support further development of a new noninvasive and more accurate way to diagnose a fatal disease of premature babies developed by an LSU Health New Orleans basic science researcher and her team. Sunyoung Kim, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, invented a diagnostic biomarker test for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and then started Chosen Diagnostics Inc to advance its development and commercialization and save lives of premature babies.
“Right here in New Orleans, we can create new diagnostic tests for deadly diseases,”says Dr. Kim, who is also CEO of Chosen Diagnostics. “Professors, doctors and nurses from different schools and departments at LSU Health worked together for three years to create this health care solution. Equally important, this health care innovation was created together with the parents, guardians, and caretakers of preterm infants in our communities. Nearly 70% of preemie babies in our communities are African American. It became critical that the health care solution for NEC was safe and tailor-made for the ethnic group that is most affected by this disease. This award allows the small business-university collaboration to build kit reference standards that accommodate human diversity. We will be working with proteomics core and other commercial entities to assist us in these efforts.”
The project will optimize the choice of reference standard and detection method for the NEC biomarker protein. Current clinical diagnostics rarely address a target protein with extensive variation that is age- and race-dependent. The goal of this project is to develop clinical reference standards for the detection of NEC that are equally robust across different ethnic groups in hospital pathology settings.
“The non-invasive format of our diagnostic test, necessary for fragile preemies, seamlessly integrates into existing pathology lab workflows, which will also reduce hospital stays and decrease health care costs,” adds Kim.
NEC has a mortality rate as high as 50%. Many babies do not live long after diagnosis, and those who survive can have lifelong neurological and nutritional complications. No clinical test had been established as the gold standard to diagnose NEC. X-rays are now used to diagnose advanced disease, but their sensitivity can be as low as 44%. Conversely, the Neonatal DDx biomarker panel developed by Kim in her lab at LSU Health New Orleans, is performed on stool samples and identifies 93% true positives and 95% true negatives in diagnosing the disease.
According to the National Science Foundation, the SBIR program is intended to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds to build a strong national economy by stimulating technological innovation in the private sector; strengthening the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results; and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.
Rebecca Buckley, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, and Chosen Diagnostics Chief Operating Officer, will lead continuing research at LSU Health New Orleans.
“Our research objectives include identifying optimal reference standard composition for two common methods to quantify biomolecules in clinical settings and understanding usage limitations of these reference standards in the background of high sequence variation in the human population,” says Dr. Buckley.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health awarded Chosen Diagnostics Inc, a $299,641 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer award last year.
“This is the second grant award we have received in eight months,” notes Kim. “Having support from two federal science agencies concurrently is an important milestone for all of us,” concludes Kim. “It speaks to the utility and importance of our vision to create a novel diagnostic test that has long been sought.”
About Chosen Diagnostics:
Based in New Orleans, LA, Chosen Diagnostics Inc is an award-winning woman-owned small business that combines scientific expertise with leading-edge technologies in biomarker development. Since 2017, Chosen Diagnostics has been focused on delivering better outcomes for the most urgent and complex challenges in science and technology. To learn more about Chosen Diagnostics, please visit http://www.chosendiagnostics.com/ or follow us on Twitter.
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's flagship health sciences university, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas in a worldwide arena, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment, or cure disease. To learn more, visit http://www.lsuhsc.edu , http://www.twitter.com/LSUHealthNO , or http://www.facebook.com/LSUHSC .
Study Shows Biomarker Accurately Diagnoses Deadly Infant Disease
A diagnostic study of 136 premature infants found that a protein involved in managing harmful bacteria in the human intestine is a reliable biomarker for the noninvasive detection of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Led by researchers and clinicians at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, this is one of the largest prospective clinical studies in premature infants yet. Results of the study are published online in JAMA Network Open, available here.
According to the National Institutes of Health, necrotizing enterocolitis is a life-threatening illness almost exclusively affecting neonates. NEC has a mortality rate as high as 50%. Inflammation of the intestine leads to bacterial invasion causing cellular damage and cell death, which causes necrosis of the colon and intestine. As NEC progresses, it can lead to intestinal perforation causing peritonitis, sepsis and death. To date, no clinical test has been established as the gold standard to diagnose NEC. X-rays are used to diagnose advanced disease, but their sensitivity can be as low as 44%.The gut disease is one of concern in Louisiana, as it has one of the highest rates of premature birth in the country, and it disproportionately affects African-American infants.
Since iAP activity precedes the chemical process triggering inflammation, the researchers studied the abundance and enzyme activity of iAP shed in stool to assess the correlation of two iAP biochemical measures with disease severity. They found that elevated levels of iAP protein linked to NEC were shed in the samples, but the proteins were dysfunctional in the NEC patients. The accuracy rates using iAP levels and iAP activity as markers for severe NEC were 97% and 76%, respectively. The accuracy values were similar for suspected NEC – 97% and 62%, respectively.
The biomarker has doubled the diagnostic identification of the disease, compared to the current gold standard – a milestone important at both the bench and the bedside.
Besides Kim, other members of the research team from LSU Health New Orleans included Drs. Maya Heath, Zeromeh Gerber, Brian Barkemeyer and Duna Penn in the Section of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics; Rebecca Buckley, PhD, and Porcha Davis in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Zhide Fang, PhD, in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health. Misty Good, MD, Laura Linneman, RN, and Qingqing Gong, PhD, from Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, also participated in the research.
Kim is the founder of a spin-out company, Chosen Diagnostics Inc., whose business interests are related to this project. The company is considering an option to license its diagnostic test developed from this work. Dr. Misty Good has financial relationships with Abbott Laboratories and Astarte Medical Partners.
Dr. Chatterjee Wins Prestigious Award From
the American Association of Hematology at Their Annual Meeting
For the second consecutive year, Dr. Sabyasachi Chatterjee, post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Rinku Mjaumder, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been received the Abstract Achievement Award from the American Society of Hematology at their annual meeting. His abstract titled “Laminin G domains of Protein S bind and inhibit FIXa” was co-authored with Amber Sylvain, Satish Pilli, Whitney Fant, Doerte Fricke, Terry Watt and Rinku Majumder and appeared in the November 13th edition of Blood. Previous work shows Protein S binds to the FIXa protein to down regulate coagulation in the clotting response. Deficiencies in Protein S are associated with deep vein thrombosis, myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, and vascular calcification. Dr. Chatterjee and his colleagues used a selection of biochemical and biophysical methods to map the binding between Protein S and FIXa for the first time, an important step in directing future drug design to regulate this interaction and rates of blood clotting.
New Orleans, LA - Research conducted by Suresh Alahari, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Genetics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that metformin, a commonly prescribed drug for Type 2 Diabetes, may be effective in treating cancers that lack a protein called Nischarin. The findings are published online in the International Journal of Cancer available here.
Dr. Alahari discovered Nischarin, a protein involved in many biological processes that also acts as a tumor suppressor. Much of his research on this novel protein has been in breast cancer. In the current study, his lab showed that disruption of the Nischarin gene delays mammary gland development, enhances tumor growth and metastasis, and also decreases activation of an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK plays a major role in metabolism and is considered to be a therapeutic target for metabolic diseases and even some cancers. Metformin's precise mechanism of action remains unclear, but it appears to work at least partly through the activation of AMPK.
"The clinical documentation that diabetic patients on a metformin regimen display reduced risks of developing cancer poses the tantalizing possibility that this approach to treating cancer might prove to be an effective and unrealized therapeutic opportunity," says Alahari.
In this study, the researchers showed that metformin activates AMPK and has a strong inhibitory effect of growth on tumors that do not express functional Nischarin, suggesting metformin has a great therapeutic value in Nischarin-lacking tumors.
"We found that Nischarin-deleted tumor cells had lower AMPK activity than Nischarin-positive cells," notes Alahari, "and that metformin treatment activated AMPK more efficiently in Nischarin-deleted mice, and metformin suppressed tumor growth of Nischarin-deleted mice. Collectively, our data suggest that Nischarin disruption promotes breast tumor development, AMPK signaling is important for Nischarin-mediated suppression of breast tumors, and activation of AMPK by metformin suppresses breast tumor growth in Nischarin-lacking mice."
These findings have added clinical significance because Nischarin expression is frequently reduced in human breast cancer, especially triple negative breast cancers, and is associated with reduced long-term survival.
"The discovery that the effectiveness of certain drugs, such as metformin, are influenced by the level of Nischarin expression could help identify specific patients in whom it is most likely to prove beneficial," Alahari adds. "In this way, Nischarin expression could serve as a biomarker to help inform decisions in management by identifying a subset of patients most likely to benefit from AMPK activator therapies."
Louisiana Radio Network sent these with their thanks.
The Kim laboratory has led a clinical trial readiness program for fatal neonatal gut disease that disproportionately affects African-American infants and lacks disease-modifying treatments. Several candidate probiotic and small-molecule compounds are advancing through the therapeutic pipelines, but face barriers to development and adoption. To overcome these barriers, Sunyoung Kim and her group in the Department of Biochemistry have an active collaboration with the Division of Neonatology/Department of Pediatrics at LSU Health and at the Washington University School of Medicine. By conducting one of the largest prospective clinical studies in premature infants yet, they have created and validated a novel, molecular biomarker for necrotizing enterocolitis in the clinic. It has doubled the diagnostic identification of the disease, compared to the current gold standard – a milestone important at both the bench and the bedside.
This multi-center, national partnership mirrors the future model for clinical study and clinical trial implementation and lays the foundation for development of novel therapeutics for gut disease in the pediatric population. The Biochemistry/Pediatrics collaborative is now a member of the national biobank for the infant gut disease; this 10-hospital association is committed to working with the patient advocacy groups and the biomedical research community to build solutions for the infants in need. Sunyoung Kim is an invited member of the national Necrotizing Enterocolitis Society Research Advisory Committee and the International Neonatal Consortium, a global public-private collaboration to establish a regulatory path for evaluating safety and effectiveness of neonatal therapies. Most importantly, Maya Heath MD, a neonatology fellow, won one of the top 3 Clinical Research Award prizes at the 2019 national Pediatric Academies Society meeting, a first (to our knowledge) for any Louisiana pediatric fellowship trainee.
Congratulations to Amber Sylvain from Dr. Rinku Majumder's Lab who won 2nd prize in the Research Experience Undergraduate Program, and 3rd place in the Undergraduate category of the NSF Summer Research program. Amber worked in the Majumder Lab during summer 2019 and was trained by post doctoral associate Dr. Sabyasachi Chatterjee.
Research led by Suresh Alahari, PhD, the Fred Brazda Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found a new role for a protein discovered by his lab in preventing the growth and spread of breast cancer. The results of the study, which could have a significant impact on cancer therapy, are published in the OnlineFirst section of the journal Cancer Research, available here.
Dr. Alahari discovered the novel protein, Nischarin, which is involved in a number of biological processes including the regulation of breast cancer cell migration and movement. Although his lab has shown that Nischarin functions as a tumor suppressor, research continues to uncover new information that may lead to better treatments.
In the current study, the research team investigated Nischarin’s function in exosome release. Exosomes are nano-sized vesicles (fluid-filled sacs) containing proteins, genetic and other material involved in both physiological and pathological processes. Tumor-derived exosomes contain various signaling messengers for intercellular communication involved in tumor progression and metastasis of cancer. Tumor exosomes influence the interactions of various types of cells within the tumor microenvironment, regulating tumor development, progression and metastasis. Primary tumors release exosomes that can enhance seeding and growth metastatic cancer cells.
Among the researchers’ findings: Nischarin regulates cell attachment and alters the properties of exosomes. Exosomes from Nischarin-positive cells reduce breast cancer cell motility and adhesion, as well as tumor volume. Nischarin-positive cells release fewer exosomes, and cell survival is decreased. Co-culturing breast cancer cells with Nischarin-positive exosomes decreases tumor growth and lung metastasis.
“This novel role for the tumor suppressor Nischarin not only increases our understanding of the exosome biology, but can be translated to identifying new targets for modulating cancer metastasis,” notes Dr. Alahari. “Inhibition of the secretion of exosomes may serve as an effective treatment for cancer.”
In the news
According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, which includes data from LSU Health New Orleans’ Louisiana Tumor Registry, breast cancer represented 15.3% of all new cancer cases and 6.7% of all cancer deaths in 2018. There were an estimated 266,120 new cases of breast cancer in the US and an estimated 40,920 deaths.
“It has been shown that exosomes can be developed as carriers for delivering drugs,” Alahari adds. “Nischarin-expressing exosomes in combination with drugs will likely have very good therapeutic effect on breast cancer patients.”
Other members of the LSU Health New Orleans research team were Drs. Mazvita Maziveyi and Shengli Dong in the School of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, as well as Dr. Donald Mercante in the School of Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics. The research team also included scientists from Central University of Punjab, Louisiana State University, Wayne State University, Xavier University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The research was supported by funding from the Fred Brazda Foundation and LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
New Orleans, LA – Research led by Suresh Alahari, PhD, Fred Brazda Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology at LSU Health New Orleans, suggests a novel protein may be a promising therapeutic target to treat or prevent metabolic disorders. The study also reported for the first time metabolic distinctions between male and female mice. The findings are published in the December 2018, issue of the International Journal of Obesity, available here.
The researchers conducted studies in both a mouse model and in human tissue to advance our understanding of the role of Nischarin, a novel protein discovered by the Alahari lab, in fat distribution and insulin resistance leading to diabetes and obesity. Nischarin functions as a molecular scaffold and is involved in the insulin signaling pathway.
“Nischarin disruption resulted in insulin resistance in female mice, but not in male mice, suggesting that Nischarin protects against diabetes in females,” notes Dr. Alahari. “Our human data indicate that Nischarin expression is suppressed in fat tissue of obese humans. Higher expression of Nischarin correlates with lower BMI and improved glucose and lipid metabolism.”
Working with experimental Nischarin-mutant as well as wild mice fed chow and high-fat diets, the researchers found gender differences in body fat distribution, increased insulin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance in the females.
To link the work in mice with human disease, the scientists also studied paired samples of human subcutaneous and visceral fat that were obtained from 400 individuals (267 women, 133 men), ranging in age from 19 to 93 years, with BMIs from 18.9 to 78.9 kg/m². The research team found that Nischarin expression was lower in both visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissues of individuals with obesity. The majority of parameters associated with obesity – impaired glucose and lipid metabolism as well as insulin resistance – were inversely correlated with Nischarin expression, as were weight, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio. They also found that Nischarin expression was higher in the visceral fat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age-adjusted percentage of US adults who were obese or had been diagnosed with diabetes rose in all states from 1994-2015. “In 1994, all but two states had prevalence of obesity less than 18% and no state exceeded
22%. In 2015, no state had less than 18% and all but one state exceeded 22%. Similarly for diagnosed diabetes, in 1994, no state had prevalence less than 6.0%. In 2015, all states exceeded 6.0%; 27 of these exceeded 9.0%.”
“Understanding how Nischarin in adipose tissues influences metabolic dysfunction might warrant a new paradigm in metabolic studies,” Alahari concludes.
Besides LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, participating institutions included the University of Leipzig in Germany and Tulane University School of Medicine.
The research was supported by funds from LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and the Fred Brazda Foundation, as well as grants of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Obesity Mechanisms (SFB 1052, B01).
Congratulations to Aliyah Pierre from Dr. Rinku Majumder's Lab who won 3rd place in the annual research competition by REU National Science Foundation.
New Link Between Hypoxia and Thrombosis
A team of researchers from the department of Biochemistry, LSU Health Science Center, New Orleans, School of Medicine and University of Massachusetts Medical School, led by Rinku Majumder, PhD, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at LSUHSC just published an article in the prestigious journal "Blood"( https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2018-04-841585).
This group has shown by biochemical and genetic approaches that decrease in concentration of a body's natural anticoagulant, Protein S, is responsible for increased thrombotic risk at low oxygen condition (hypoxia). The journal editorial board has come out with a commentary on this topic (https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2018-06-854976) and observed-"This is an important contribution to our understanding of the molecular basis of the augmentation of thrombosis by hypoxia." Hypoxia is common in many disease states, including cancer. However, hypoxia mediated potentiation of thrombotic episode due to down regulation of a body's natural anticoagulant, protein S is novel. This article is also selected as one of the featured articles on the cover page of the issue.
Other members of the research team include Dr. Vijaya S. Pilli, Mr. Arani Datta and Dr. Sadaf Afreen from LSUHSC and Ms. Donna Catalano and Dr. Gyongyi Szabo of Umass Medical Center.
Research led by Suresh Alahari, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has shown for the first time that a tiny piece of RNA deregulates energy metabolism, an emerging hallmark of cancer. The finding identifies a new target for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer. The research is published in Molecular Cancer.
Sunyoung Kim, founder of Chosen Diagnostics Inc, was selected by the State Department and Small Business Administration in Washington DC to be one of the 300 US delegates to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad India. A LSU Health spin-out company, Chosen Diagnostics provides diagnostic tests that can personalize and improve infant health. GES serves as a link between governments and the private sector and champions new opportunities for investment. Over 1000 delegates from 150 countries attended the meeting in Hyderabad, India from November 28-30, 2017. Participants are picked for their ability to catalyze innovation, investment, and mentoring. The focus of this eighth annual summit was supporting women entrepreneurs, addressing some of the most intractable global challenges, and fostering economic growth globally. Ivanka Trump headlined the United States delegation and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed the delegation from the host country.
Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Chaney for his appointment as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Xavier University!
Alahari Lab in the News
Research led by Suresh Alahari, PhD, Fred Brazda Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has demonstrated the potential of a protein to treat or prevent metabolic diseases including obesity and diabetes. The lab's findings have been published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry; and, more recently, have been featured on Fox 8 News and other local news stateions.
Follow the link below to see the video from Fox 8 News:
Journal of Biological Chemistry
Dr. Alahari and his lab have been featured in the latest version of The Journal of Biological Chemistry for their groundbreaking research on obesity and diabetes. A number of other news sources have also recently published this article (see below). Congratulations to the entire Alahari Lab on this accomplishment!
LIFT2 Grant Award
The Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College has established the "Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer" (LIFT2) Grant program to support the furtherance of innovation and commercialization through proof-of-concept research.
On May 3, 2017 Dr. Desai and her lab received a $50,000 LIFT2 award to continue their current research. This grant was awarded to help fund her research project titled: "ISGylation: a potential diagnostic/prognostic biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases." Congratulations to Dr. Desai and her lab on this accomplishment!
Biz The Magazine - May 2017
Dr. Sunyoung Kim and her startup company, Chosen Diagnostics, were featured on the cover of the May 2017 issue of Biz New Orleans The Magazine. In the article, Dr. Kim reflects on what it takes to build a healthcare startup and why Louisiana is the right place for it to take shape.
In November, Chosen Diagnostics won the $25,000 grand prize at the 2016 BioChallenge Startup Competition, an annual event organized by the New Orleans BioInnovation Center to identify and support local life sciences startups. She is the first woman to win the award.
On the heels of that success, the company took top honors in the 2017 JEDCO Challenge, held this past March during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The win included a $60,000 prize package. Judging panels weren’t the only ones who recognized the company’s merit — in both competitions, Chosen Diagnostics won the “crowd favorite” prizes as well.
NPR Out to Lunch
Dr. Sunyoung Kim was a featured guest on NPR's "Out to Lunch" program on March 2, 2017. During the interview, Dr. Kim discussed a new test her lab is working on that will help diagnose Necrotizing Entercolitis (NEC) in newborn babies. NEC is a condition primarily seen in premature infants and is the second most common cause of morbidity for the vulnerable population. Current tests are only about 40% accurate and only work after clinical symptoms develop. An NEC diagnosis can easily overwhelm parents who may already be having a hard time with the unexpected early arrival of their child. Developing a test that allows for detection of NEC before symptoms develop is a huge leap forward for Neonatologists. Early diagnosis and intervention will improve outcomes for the affected infants.
You can listen to Dr. Kim's interview in full by clicking on the following link:
Most Cited Journal Article: Molecular Cancer
Congratulations to Dr. Alahari and his lab team on publishing the most cited article of 2016 from the open access journal, Molecular Cancer. This is a great honor for Dr. Alahari, as Molecular Cancer is one of the most prestigious scientific journals, with a 5.9 impact rating.
A link to the article can be found here:
Silvia Juliana Serrano-Gomez, Mazvita Maziveyi, and Suresh Alahari
Prestigious NSF I-Corps Award
Congratulation Dr. Sunyoung Kim on this great news: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/lsuh-tfe120116.php
NSF awarded LSU Health New Orleans a $50,000 grant so the LSU Health New Orleans reasearchers led by Dr. Kim can participate in the national NS Innoviation Corps (ICorps) Program in January 2017.