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Blondin to collaborate on breast cancer project in Finland


A key executive for Birgmingham based Blodin Bioscience is a collaborator on a grant awarded by the Academy of Finland that will aid in the study of breast cancer therapies.

The three year grant of $474,000 has been awarded to Dr. Johanna Tuomela at the University of Turku. Dr. Tuomela studies the role of inflammasomes, a component of the innate immune system, and a protein called TLR9 in bisphosphonate responses in bone tissue and breast cancer. The grant may help identify patients that benefit most from bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that was initially used for osteoporosis but is now also used as adjuvant treatment in breast cancer.

“Companies like Blondin are at the heart of Alabama’s emerging bioscience sector, and it’s exciting to see collaborations like this one that link our talented researchers with counterparts in Europe,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

 The breast cancer research project also could lead to new developments for Blondin, said Brad Spencer, the company’s chief executive officer.

“Katri’s collaborative research with Dr. Tuomela is exciting, not just because of the potential therapeutic benefits for breast cancer patients, but also because Blondin can potentially develop a test to aid with the identification of patients that could benefit from the use of these old drugs,” he said.

Possible companion diagnostic tests

Dr. Selander brings notable experience to the project. She has more than 20 years of lab experience with various pre-clinical cancer models. She also has authored 22 scientific papers on the role of TLR9 in cancer. Her research involves characterizing the molecular and cellular phenotype of the poor prognosis low TLR9-triple negative breast cancer that her group discovered. She received an MD and PhD from the University of Oulu Medical School in Oulu, Finland. Dr. Selander also has clinical experience in oncology. It was this experience in the field that led to the 2011 founding of Blondin Bioscience, a molecular diagnostics company that most recently secured a grant under the National Institutes for Health (NIH) I-Corps program. The company is developing cancer treatment tests that sit at the intersection of both evidence-based medicine and precision oncology. The NIH I-Corps award will support further development of the commercialization of FACT, Blondin’s blood biomarker test for quantifying cell-free telomeric DNA fragments in order to monitor the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

“It is possible that findings from this study with Dr. Tuomela will lead to the development of companion diagnostics tests within Blondin,” Dr. Selander said. “We are very happy for the success of Dr. Tuomela and enthusiastic about this collaboration.”