H2020 funding awarded to Professor Lorraine O'Driscoll
Trinity researcher awarded almost €4 million for research on exosomes and other extracellular vesicles in cancer (2017-2021)
Professor Lorraine O’Driscoll at Trinity’s School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences has been awarded almost €4 million Horizon 2020 funding for a programme entitled “Training in Extracellular vesicles for benefit in Health and Disease”.
The programme is in collaboration with European partners at Institut Curie Paris, Utrecht University, Ghent University, Semmelweis University Budapest, Freiburg University, University of Porto, and industry including Lonza, HansaBioMed, Bioinf2Bio, GVS SpA, AJ Innuscreen GmbH, Exosomics Siena SpA, BD Biosciences and Thermo Fisher.
This H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovation Training Network will train 15 PhD students over its 4-year lifetime and will work on establishing standards and best practice for exosomes and other extracellular vesicles (EVs) research. It will focus on cancer and determining how EVs contribute to cancer metastasis, immune suppression and resistance to anti-cancer drugs, but also how EVs may be used as naturally-occurring drug delivery systems. The hope would be to subsequently make use of this knowledge for societal and economic purposes.
Speaking about the objectives of the programme, Professor O’Driscoll, Director of TRAIN-EV said: “TRAIN-EV’s objective is to develop academic and industry EV leaders for the future through excellent and integrated multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral training of a critical mass of early-career researchers. The researchers will have outstanding potential in the academic, clinical, and industry/business components of exploiting exosomes and other EVs. They will alsoperform novel, cutting-edge research and generate new knowledge. This will be achieved by training 15 PhDs in leading universities, clinics and industries offering secondments.”
As well as attending a range of research training courses in the partner universities, clinics and industry, the PhD Fellows will take courses run by the Innovation Academy on how to commercialise research discoveries.
Increasing evidence indicates that substantial "cargos of information" involved in cell-to-cell communication are transported in the bloodstream in exosomes and ectosomes. These membrane-surrounded vesicles released from cells -collectively termed extracellular vesicles or EVs- were originally considered as junk, but are now thought to be mini-maps of their cells of origin. Their contents includes proteins, RNAs and DNA.
Some EVs are released from healthy cells and are associated with a range of physiological functions. In cancer, studies of cell lines, animal models and body fluids (including blood, urine, saliva) from patients and healthy individuals have advocated EVs in a positive light as minimally-invasive diagnostics and predictive biomarkers, based on relative EV quantitative and/or contents.
In parallel, mounting evidence has strongly implicated EVs in causing havoc as a mechanism of cell-to-cell communication, transferring undesirable information in cancer. Examples include passing on drug-resistance characteristics; attracting cancer cells to secondary sites, including the brain, as metastases; helping cancer cells evade the immune system; stimulating recipient cell proliferation, motility, invasion; and inducing neovascularisation and angiogenesis. Recent studies have also suggested EVs having a role as naturally-occurring drug delivery vehicles.