May 23, 2016 — Yissum Research Development Company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced it has entered into a research agreement with Aurum Ventures MKI, the technology investment arm of Morris Kahn, for the development of a new diagnostic approach for early detection of multiple diseases by analyzing circulating DNA released from dying cells. Under the current agreement, Yissum is expected to receive $1.2 million funding. The new technology will be presented at Yissum’s booth during the IATI-BIOMED 2016 Conference, to be held on May 24-26, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In a series of experiments involving hundreds of patients and control subjects, researchers developed a blood test that can detect multiple pathologies, including diabetes, cancer, traumatic injury and neurodegeneration, in a highly sensitive and specific manner. The unique method infers cell death in specific tissues from the methylation patterns of circulating DNA that is released by dying cells. The findings were reported in a paper published in March 2016 entitled “Identification of tissue specific cell death using methylation patterns of circulating DNA” (PNAS 2016 113 (13) E1826-E1834). Dr. Ruth Shemer and Professor Yuval Dor from the Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Professor Benjamin Glaser, Head of Endocrinology Department, of the Hadassah Medical Center led the team performing the research.
Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, commented, “The novel technology represents an exciting approach that opens up vast possibilities in diagnostic medicine. The capital received from Aurum Ventures will be used for the development of a diagnostic tool for selected diseases, with a first priority to neurodegenerative, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, as well as for developing the invention into a novel blood test for the early detection of multiple diseases at their asymptomatic stage.”
“Professor Dor and his team have developed a completely novel approach to early diagnosis of a variety of medical conditions that will enable detection of these diseases long before clinical signs of disease become evident,” said Dr. Dan J. Gelvan, Managing Director of Life Science at Aurum Ventures. “This development is likely to become focal in future medicine and we are honored to have been offered the opportunity to join this path-breaking project.”
The researchers identified multiple DNA sequences that are methylated in a tissue-specific manner (for example, DNA that is not methylated in neurons but methylated elsewhere), and can serve as biomarkers for the detection of DNA derived from each tissue. They then developed a method to detect these methylated patterns in DNA circulating in the peripheral bloodstream and demonstrated its utility for identifying the origins of circulating DNA in different human pathologies, as an indication of cell death in specific tissues. They were able to detect evidence for pancreatic beta-cell death in the blood of patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes, oligodendrocyte death in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, brain cell death in patients after traumatic or ischemic brain damage, and exocrine pancreas cell death in patients with pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
Aurum Ventures MKI is the technology investment arm of Morris Kahn, a prominent businessman, philanthropist and entrepreneur. Aurum Ventures MKI invests in Israeli and Israel-related companies in the life science field, in all stages of development.