Mason and Italian Institute Pen Agreement for Proteomics Research

Posted: March 1, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Patty Snellings

Adding to its cache of unique and rewarding international relationships, Mason and the Istituto Superiore di Sanitá of Rome, Italy, have signed a three-year agreement to develop an unprecedented proteomics research program that unveils new cancer diagnostics and therapies through the discovery of drug targets and biomarkers for early disease detection. A trial collaboration has been under way for several months.

Implemented through the university’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, (CAPMM) the research is led by center co-directors Lance Liotta and Emanuel F. Petricoin III. The center, housed at the Prince William Campus, is part of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Proteomics, the study of protein activity in cells, is an emerging field in medicine that holds the promise of a new paradigm for early disease detection and personalized medical treatment. Biomarkers for early disease detection, prognosis and treatment may comprise protein fragments or other biological indicators of cellular function found in human blood.

Before joining Mason last year, Liotta and Petricoin worked with ISS as part of a National Cancer Institute collaboration to develop and test proteomics technologies for analysis of cancer and other diseases. This agreement represents a continuation of those earlier efforts.

The agreement calls for ISS to provide Mason with human tissue samples retrieved during surgery and blood samples collected from both cancer and healthy patients; funding for Italian scientists to work with Mason scientists at the CAPMM laboratories; and access to ongoing research in a large consortium of cancer centers in Italy.

“This is a very important collaboration that has been happening for some time now,” says Provost Peter Stearns. “It is a strong research linkage between Italy and Mason.”

ISS, the primary scientific arm of the Italian National Health Service, is one of the most prestigious health institutions in Europe and encompasses the functions of the United States’ National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration, explains CAS Dean Daniele Struppa. The collaboration benefits both partners, he adds.

“The Italian scientists receive cutting-edge training in proteomics and have the opportunity to collaborate with Liotta and Petricoin, who are internationally renowned leaders in cancer proteomics research,” Struppa says. “Mason and ISS will share in any financial gains that result from the commercialization of new technologies.”

Signing of agreement
George Mason signed a research collaboration agreement with Istituto Superiore di Sanitá (ISS) earlier this week. Above, from left, Emanuel Petricoin and Lance Liotta, George Mason scientists; and Enrico Garaci, ISS president.
Creative Services photo

Five scientists named by the Italian government after a rigorous selection process have been working at Mason since last fall. Some are pursuing doctoral degrees in their native country, some are working under postdoctoral fellowships and one is a surgical fellow.

“We are very proud of this collaboration,” says Enrico Garaci, ISS president and professor of microbiology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. “This kind of agreement usually means a long wait for results, but after less than a year of collaborating, we already see results. It represents strong cooperation between Italy and the United States.”

Specific collaborative initiatives include nanotechnology development; identification of new bloodborne biomarkers for early detection of ovarian, colorectal, lung and breast cancers; discovery of new drug targets for advanced stages of colorectal, lung and breast cancers; and discovery of new drug targets for childhood leukemia, childhood cancers and brain cancers.

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