Contact: Alexander Shtifman
Phone: 617-713-8989

Judy Lieberman, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and senior investigator at the Immune Disease Institute (IDI), in partnership with Baxter Healthcare Corporation’s Microsphere Technology Development Group located in Norwood, Massachusetts, have received a Cooperative Research Grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC). The grant totals $250,000 per year for three years.

The collaboration between Dr. Lieberman and Dr. Kimberly Gillis, director of research for Baxter’s Microsphere Technology Group, will focus on the prevention of genital tract infections such as herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) and human papillomavirus (HPV) using Baxter’s PROMAXX microspheres, which contain small antiviral RNAs, called siRNAs. The results could be extended to develop topical microbicides that could be used to prevent the sexual transmission of HSV-2, the most important risk factor for the sexual transmission of HIV to women and newborns.

“siRNAs are an exciting new class of drugs with potential to treat many diseases,” said Dr. Lieberman. Her previous research has yielded promising results in mice, showing that siRNAs can be topically administered to prevent sexual transmission of HSV-2 for at least a week in female mice.

“These findings suggest that this approach could prevent sexual transmission of viruses in humans in a way that would not require application just before sexual intercourse, when compliance might be a problem,” said Lieberman “To be useful clinically we need a way to formulate the small RNAs into a product that could be administered to women. Our preliminary results suggest that the PROMAXX microspheres may help us to do that. This grant will provide the resources to do the necessary preclinical development work,” she said.

Jon Cammack, Ph.D., vice president of corporate research and development for Baxter, said this early-stage research shows exciting promise. “We recognize the potential of our proprietary PROMAXX microsphere formulation technology to help address the drug delivery hurdle needed to make siRNA therapeutics effective drugs. Our ongoing collaboration with Dr. Lieberman’s laboratory at IDI, Harvard Medical School, is aimed at generating novel approaches to treating and controlling disease.”

Frederick W. Alt, Ph.D., scientific director of the Immune Disease Institute and the Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School stated that “Small RNAs constitute an exciting new class of drugs that could potentially be used to treat many different diseases. Dr. Lieberman was the first to show the potential of small RNAs to treat diseases in mouse models of hepatitis. She has now shown in elegant proof of concept experiments that small RNAs applied topically can prevent sexual transmission of herpes virus in mice. Translating that work into a drug that could be used in humans requires a lot of development work. The MLSC grant to Dr. Lieberman and Baxter provides an exciting opportunity to determine whether microspheres designed by Baxter can be used to formulate a microbicide that could potentially be used to prevent herpes virus transmission or treat early precancerous and malignant cervical cancers caused by the papilloma virus in humans.”

The MLSC’s Cooperative Research Grant Program funds collaborations between scientists, academic institutions and industry that promise significant commercial potential in the near term and are scientifically meritorious. Six projects were funded out of a total of 27 that were submitted for consideration. The awards will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the industry partners involved with each collaboration.

“The Cooperative Research Grant Program builds on the Center’s strategy of using public investments to leverage private sector resources as we pursue our dual mission of job creation, and support for good science that will improve the human condition,” said Dr. Susan Windham Bannister, president & Chief Executive Officer of the MLSC. “We are pleased to support this worthy collaborative research project, which holds promise for both job creation and important advancements in scientific knowledge.”

“Our office thanks Baxter’s Microsphere Technology Group, based in Norwood, for its partnership with the Immune Disease Institute,” said State Senator Marian Walsh, who represents Norwood in the state senate. “The research grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, totaling $750,000 over three years, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Baxter. This collaboration, which will be both important to the economic development of Norwood and to the health of the people of Massachusetts, was just what the Legislature and the Governor had envisioned when we established the Life Sciences Center.”

“This grant illustrates why the legislature passed the Life Sciences act,” said State Representative John Rogers of Norwood. “I’m glad that this public-private partnership is happening in Norwood and excited for the long term benefit of this research.”

About Baxter’s Microsphere Technology Development Group
The Microsphere Technology Development Group (formerly Epic Therapeutics), located in Norwood, MA, has developed a proprietary technology called PROMAXX., which enables the incorporation of biologic compounds into stable, nano- and microsphere drug delivery formulations. A unique feature of the technology is the ability to produce these microspheres in narrow particle size ranges. Low molecular weight compounds, peptides, proteins, monoclonal antibodies, polyclonal antibodies, and nucleic acids, including siRNA have all been successfully incorporated into the PROMAXX drug delivery technology.

About Baxter
Baxter International Inc. develops, manufactures and markets products that save and sustain the lives of people with hemophilia, immune disorders, infectious diseases, kidney disease, trauma, and other chronic and acute medical conditions. As a global, diversified healthcare company, Baxter applies a unique combination of expertise in medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to create products that advance patient care worldwide.

About the Immune Disease Institute
The Immune Disease Institute is a non-profit research institution recognized worldwide for its discoveries that increase the body's ability to fight disease and to heal. The breakthroughs of IDI scientists are greatly increasing our understanding of the influence of immune defense and inflammation on medical discovery, healthcare, and disease management. The Immune Disease Institute is affiliated with Children’s Hospital Boston where it is known as the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. It is academically affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and its investigators hold appointments in departments of the medical school.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is a quasi-public agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tasked with implementing the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act, a ten-year, $1 billion initiative that was signed into law in June of 2008. The Center’s mission is to create jobs in the life sciences and support vital scientific research that will improve the human condition. This work includes making financial investments in public and private institutions that are advancing life sciences research, development and commercialization as well as building ties between sectors of the Massachusetts life sciences community. For more information, visit