Tumor monorail project receives $6.5M Marcus Foundation grant

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | May 18, 2015

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Holly Korschun
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John Toon
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Ravi Bellamkonda is chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.
The tumor monorail project, a collaboration between the Georgia Institute of Technology, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, will receive a $6.5 million grant from The Marcus Foundation. The project involves the design and testing of a novel device for more efficient treatment of brain tumors.

"Support from The Marcus Foundation will enable us to accelerate the development of a novel tumor monorail device to treat brain tumors in patients," said Ravi Bellamkonda, Wallace H. Coulter Chair in Biomedical Engineering and lead investigator of this project. "Research labs such as ours are set up to achieve scientific and engineering breakthroughs, but for these breakthroughs to reach patients, we need to follow good manufacturing practices, rigorous safety and quality testing, adhere to FDA guidelines for obtaining regulatory approvals, and design appropriate clinical trials. All of these processes are going to be greatly enhanced and accelerated with this critical and visionary Marcus Foundation support."

Funding from The Marcus Foundation will enable researchers to move this technology into clinical trials and ultimately to people who are facing these medical challenges. The grant will also enable device design and prototyping, development of an FDA-compliant manufacturing process and FDA approvals for a clinical Investigational New Drug (IND) study to be conducted in Atlanta.

Critical support for the project was provided by Ian's Friends Foundation, an Atlanta-based non-profit that supports pediatric brain tumor research. The monorail project was inspired by a desire to treat pediatric brain tumors. The research may also be applied to adult brain tumors.

Over the past five years, the research team has demonstrated that the tumor monorail device is capable of significantly reducing tumor load in rodent brains, by guiding tumors to grow into a specially designed "gel sink." This study, published in Nature Materials in 2014, received worldwide media attention and interest.

The interdisciplinary research team includes Bellamkonda and his laboratory based at Georgia Tech; Dr. Barun Brahma, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta; and Dr. Tobey McDonald, Emory Pediatrics and AFLAC Cancer Center. Harold Solomon from Georgia Tech's VentureLab is providing product development leadership.

The project exemplifies Georgia Tech and Atlanta's unparalleled strength in developing innovative technologies to better child health – a burgeoning area of research known as "pediatric bioengineering."

"On behalf of our lab, our collaborators and most importantly all the patients that may benefit from this therapy, I am deeply grateful to The Marcus Foundation for their vision and commitment to accelerate the development of our breakthrough research so it can reach patients faster than it would have otherwise," said Bellamkonda.