A team of researchers, including members of Robert F. Rushmer Professor Suzie Pun’s lab, is one of 10 teams to win the National Cancer Institute’s Nanotech Startup Challenge. The Nanotech Startup Challenge seeks to accelerate the availability of commercialized cancer nanotechnology solutions by launching new startups.

The researchers were selected for their proposal and business plan to develop a targeted drug delivery system for breast cancer which targets a specific population of tumor-promoting cells. The cells, known as tumor-associated macrophages or TAMs, are present in most solid cancers. TAMs have been found to interfere with the body’s ability to fight tumors, and may hinder chemotherapy and other anticancer drugs, said Dr. Pun in a recent UW Today article. “If you can find a way to specifically target and eliminate TAMs, this could help boost the efficacy of cancer treatments,” she explained. In the future, the team’s strategy could be adapted into therapies for other types of cancers.

With the help of UW CoMotion, Dr. Pun and UW BioE graduate student Chayanon Ngambenjawong connected with Washington, D.C.-based ECF Biosolutions, to enter the challenge. Together, the team drafted a business proposal, and pitched their plan to a panel of experts and judges. After winning the competition’s final round, the team will receive support from NCI and other partners to facilitate their transition from the lab into the business world of drug development.