Geoffry von Maltzahn is a man whose inventions are helping to create not one, but several different paths for successfully treating cancer. He is 28 years old, a biomedical engineer in graduate school at MIT, and he has already submitted 8 patent applications, co-authored 19 papers, founded two companies, and mentors aspiring scientists. And in his spare time...
The Lemelson-MIT $30,000 Student Prize was awarded to von Maltzahn today for his innovations in cancer therapy, specifically two inventions in nanomedicine: the development of a new class of cancer therapeutics and a new model for enhancing delivery of treatment therapies to tumor cells.
Von Maltzahn first studied cancer ablation -- the destruction of cancer cells through heat application. The obstacle was how to reach the cancer cells without destroying healthy cells. Von Maltzahn developed polymer-coated gold nano-antennas that can be injected intravenously and travel to the tumor site, infiltrating tumor blood vessels. When the antennas are heated with a non-invasive infra-red light, they can eradicate the tumor, leaving healthy cells alone. Experiments on tumors in mice have reversed 100 percent of tumor growth with only one injection of the nano-antennas.
The Lemelsohn-MIT award committee also recognized another invention by Von Maltzahn. Using principles of biomimicry, specifically the way ants communicate their whereabouts, von Maltzahn found a way for nanoparticles to communicate with each other -- using scouts! In his model, a benign scout finds the tumor and sends out signals to recruit secondary or "assassin" nanoparticles that can deliver up to 40 times more therapy to cancer cells than non-communicating nanoparticles. Needless to say, this work has widespread implications for medicine.
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