September 2017
Dear colleagues and friends,

I n this month’s issue of Discoveries, we share how the research of Dr.  José Luis Millán  has led to a clinical trial for a new drug to treat calcification disorders. Dr. Millán, professor at SBP's Human Genetics Program, is our longest-tenured scientist, having joined the organization as a trainee in 1977. We are very proud of this significant achievement that was reached through a collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo.

Other noteworthy events include recent publications on improved cancer imaging, new approaches to evaluate cancer drugs, heart cell development and a Career Development Award to Dr. Cosimo Commisso from the Department of Defense.

We hope you enjoy this issue,

Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
Pauline and Stanley Foster Presidential Chair
SBP and Daiichi Sankyo announce clinical trial of new drug

The strategic alliance between SBP and Daiichi Sankyo has led to the start of a phase 1 clinical trial of a drug to treat calcification disorders such as heart disease, hardened arteries and kidney disease. The foundational science for the drug comes from the pioneering research of  José Luis Millán, Ph.D., professor at SBP, whose work has led to a deep understanding of how calcification is controlled.  

Location matters, even for tumors

Location, location, location! We often hear this in real estate, but it’s also true in biology. William Stallcup, Ph.D., published a paper in  Cancers describing the importance of location for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that recruits new blood vessels to “feed” tumors with oxygen and nutrients.

Where do heart cells come from?

A new study by Alex Colas, Ph.D., has identified four genes that play a crucial role in heart development. The genes, called “Id” genes, direct stem cells to become heart cells. The research will enable scientists to generate unlimited amounts of cells for cardiac disease modeling and drug discovery.

Human tumors in mice may improve search for new cancer drugs

Did you know that only 5% of drug candidates that are effective in mice actually work in humans? Garth Powis, D.Phil., is working on a patient-derived xenograft (PDX) approach, in which human colorectal cancers are implanted to initiate tumors in mice. The method may be a more accurate predictor of whether drugs will work in humans.

Novel “dot” system improves cancer imaging

Tumor imaging is a key component of cancer care. Detection, treatment and tracking patient progress all rely on methods used to visualize tumors. Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues have developed a new system using quantum dots that achieves a five-fold improvement over existing tumor-specific optical imaging methods.

Cosimo Commisso receives Career Development Award from DoD

Recent studies have established a link between military service and elevated risk of pancreatic cancer. The Department of Defense (DoD) has given Cosimo Commisso, Ph.D, a Career Development Award to pursue desperately needed drugs to treat the deadly disease, thereby improving the basic health and welfare of service members, and by extension, their families.

SBP’s 2017 Annual Gala is almost here

The SBP Annual Gala, “Sights Set on Discovery” will be held on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Coasterra on Harbor Island. Join SBP for an unforgettable evening in support of biomedical research. To make a reservation or for more information go to the Gala .