Cancer is one of the most common pathologies in the world, diagnosed to more than 14M patients/year. More than 70% of these patients will undergo chemotherapy, whose main drawbacks are the side effects caused by the drug itself and by the common overdosing practices. µEryLō (micro Erythrocyte Lōading) is developing an innovative device to use the patients' red blood cells as drug carriers. The device will work directly on the patients' whole blood at their bedside, reducing the contamination risk and maintaining the standard chemotherapy session. By preserving the cell physiological state, we can provide the patient with a prolonged therapy with limited side effects. The tech core is in a disposable cartridge, that can be adapted to the existing dialysis systems.
Our research project was born about 8 years ago, during the research activities performed at LaBS (Laboratory of Biological Structure Mechanics) by Giustina Casagrande. The study of the hemoglobin transfer across the red blood cells membrane led to the attractive idea to use erythrocytes as drug carrier, but the technology was not ready to obtain reliable results. The development of micro fabrication technologies gave the possibility to change perspective from a macro to a micro fluidic approach. In the last 3 years, also Elena Bianchi and Monica Piergiovanni entered the team and the first prototypes exploiting microfluidic principles to load the red cells was built, tested and validated.
During the last 2 years we built a prototype tested on blood from human donors and optimized it to achieve 80% loading efficiency. We have filed a patent to protect our technology and we are now working hard to complete the proof of concept of the in vivo release. Our promising results led to the victory of the Switch2Product innovation challenge promoted by Politecnico di Milano, Polihub and Deloitte and the 2nd place to the StartCup Lombardia. Within these challenges, we had the opportunity to participate to the acceleration program with the help of two great mentors that helped us to refine our business plan and improve out soft skills, so that we could enter in a world that is quite different from the university.
The victory of GSVC Italy means that our product is not only a promising technology coming from a center of excellence in research, but also appears as a great opportunity to have a sound impact at social level. A more tolerable chemotherapy is not only a benefit for the patients at a physical and physiological level, but it can reflect also on the family and friends taking care of them and on the sanitary system as a whole.
She4Imp(act) prize is a proof that good research can be performed by a team of women that, with their multitasking capabilities can try and enter the business world. We hope to find more and more women on this long and intricated path.ing the last 2 years we built a prototype tested on blood from human donors and optimized it to achieve 80% loading efficiency. We have filed a patent to protect our technology and we are now working hard to complete the proof of concept of the in vivo release.