Clara Biotech announces winners of the 2021“Future Exosome Leaders” Awards

Lawrence, KS - June 9, 2021 - Clara Biotech, a pioneer in advanced exosome research, today announced the winners of the 2021 Clara Biotech “Future Exosome Leaders” Grant Competition.

The program is designed to support Future Exosome Leaders fundamental research by providing access to Clara Biotech’s proprietary Exosome Isolation Platform. These research projects have the potential to help patients worldwide, suffering from a range of diseases from animal to human health, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, skin cancer, diabetes, and metastatic cancer and more.

The innovative Grant Program will support advanced exosome research from top worldwide researchers, who’s work will help patients across the globe.

“Clara Biotech was founded with the intent of supporting and accelerating exosome research with the goal of accelerating paths to commercialization” said Jim West III, CEO and co-founder of the company. He continued “Our company is committed to supporting the work of researchers and our industry partners around the world.”

Dr. Mei He, Chief Science Officer and co-founder along with Mr. West, shared that “our ultimate goal when awarding these grants is to understand how these researchers will move the exosome space forward - we launched this effort to find the best projects, and help them to leap forward with help from Clara Biotech’s incredible, proprietary Exosome Isolation Platform.” Dr. He continued “We are excited to share that in support of these important research projects, all the awardees have a secured spot in the Clara Biotech Isolation Kit Early Access Program, ensuring priority access to our technology, which can be used in-house at their own facilities.”

The 2021 Clara Biotech Future Exosomes Leaders are:


Project Title: Circulating exosomes captured in cardiac diseases

Leader: Dr. Yuri D’Alessandra - Senior Researcher at Centro Cardiologico Monzino in Milan, Italy

Dr. Yuri D’Alessandra obtained his PhD in Genetic and Molecular Sciences at the University of Milan, He moved to his current location in 2006 at Centro Cardiologico Monzino. Since then, He has been studying the role of small RNAs, with a focus on microRNA in cardiovascular diseases. While the initial focus of his research was the regulation of cellular miRNAs upon hypoxic stimuli. Since 2008, he shifted his interests to the presence of small non-coding RNAs in plasma.

From then on, He has been analyzing the possible role of plasma miRNAs as markers of heart disease such as myocardial infarction and heart failure. In 2014, thanks to the achievement of a national grant, He began to work on a project aimed at the molecular characterization of cardiotoxicity induced by anthracyclines. This led to the analysis of different models and samples taken from patients of the role of coding and non-coding RNAs in response to anti-cancer treatments. The current focus of his research relies on the investigation of specific extracellular vesicles in the biofluids of patients suffering from Cardiac Diseases, with the aim of characterizing their RNA cargo.

Focus: Dr. D’Alessandra Wants to analyze the levels of specific disease-related exosomes in the plasma of cardiac amyloidosis patients and characterize their cargo.


Project Title: Studying the pro-regenerative effects of exosomes secreted by human gingiva-derived Schwann cells for peripheral nerve repair in rats

Leader: Dr. Justin Burrell - Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Justin Burrell received his PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. D. Kacy Cullen in the Department of Neurosurgery and Dr. Anh Le in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and School of Dental Medicine. His primary research is on the development of novel three dimensional micro tissue engineered constructs designed to preserve the regenerative capacity following severe peripheral nerve or spinal cord injury.

Notably, Dr. Burrell has recently begun investigating whether these microtissue engineered constructs may also serve as a clinically relevant in vitro test bed for nerve injury and reinnervation. His research is currently supported by a TL1 Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Focus: As a “Future Exosome Leader” awardee, Dr. Burrell will build off previous work by Dr. Le and colleagues and characterize exosomes secreted by human gingiva-derived mesenchymal stem cells and Schwann cell-like cells, which have been previously shown to be anti-inflammatory and pro-regenerative in various models including nerve injury. This exciting work may provide further evidence that human gingiva-derived stem cells or Schwann cell-like cells are a promising potential therapeutic for devastating neurological conditions, such as facial nerve injury. Successful execution will enable future in vivo experiments in small and large animal models of facial nerve injury.


Project Title: Clara Biotech’s ExoRelease Technology Shines A Light on the Next-Generation Exogenous Loaded Therapeutic Extracellular Vesicles for Personalized Medicine Applications.

Leader: Dr. Koen Breyne - Instructor in the Neurogenetics unit at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

After obtaining his Master’s degree in Biochemistry and Biotechnology, he received his PhD degree from The University of Ghent, Belgium in 2015. He spent his early Postdoctoral period at The University of Chicago, where he developed extensive expertise ranging from immunomodulation in preclinical animal models, single molecule localization in nanomaterials with super-resolution microscopy to synthetic protein engineering. In 2019 he was recruited as a research fellow by Dr. Breakefield’s lab at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Here his research focuses on the comprehensive understanding of cell-cell interaction and applies these modes of communication as novel avenues for therapeutic intervention. He converts extracellular vesicles into non-viral delivery vectors for gene editing purposes and he establishes cutting-edge techniques to detect functional extracellular vesicle payload discharge into recipient cells.

Focus: To circumvent the need for cells to generate extracellular vesicles (EVs) with therapeutic value, we have developed a method to exogenously load bioactive cargo such as functional mRNA into EVs. Our technique relies on synthetic biology that reprograms biomolecules to associate with isolated EVs. Magnetic EV immunocapture and release would be a major step forward in yielding pure EVs to be used in an autologous setting.


Project Title: Identification of a novel RNA aptamer that selectively targets breast cancer exosomes

Leader: Dr. Francesco Ingenito - Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD student hosted at Percuros BV and enrolled at University of Napoli “Federico II” in the PhD program “Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnology”.

Before getting his PhD, Dr. Francesco Ingenito completed a master’s degree in Drug Biotechnology by which he deepened the study of pioneering frontiers in medicine, including the applications of oligonucleotides as innovative drugs. He has been involved in various research projects in the field of oncology, mainly concerning the use of aptamer as tools for cancer therapy and diagnosis, In the actual research, he is exploring the possibility to use aptamers as probe for tumor-derived exosomes from blood, allowing an easier and faster diagnosis for cancer.

Focus: We identified a high-affinity aptamer able to specifically recognize exosomes from breast cancer cells. This molecule provides an innovative tool for the specific exosome detection directly from serum patients and the development of new therapeutic approaches for cancer.


Project Title: Determining key molecules on Extracellular Vesicles in mediating cancer growth and metastasis

Leader: Dr. Carolina Soekmadji - Senior Research Officer at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia

Dr Carolina Soekmadji is passionate about equality, education and improving outcomes for patients. Dr Soekmadji’s research has demonstrated the heterogeneity of small Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) in prostate cancer and the role of androgen receptor (AR) signalling in regulating EV secretion and cargo. Her current focus is developing new EV based therapeutic strategies that will allow targeted treatment and rapid detection of treatment response. Dr Soekmadji had been a member of the ISEV Board of Directors. In 2020, she received a prestigious educational award from the International Society of Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) for her role in leading the development of Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on 'EVs in Health and Diseases'. Dr Soekmadji recently founded a regular online webinar, WebEVTalk, which was created to help bridge the interactions between EV scientists during COVID19.

Focus: Current treatments for prostate cancer are designed to target the nuclear transcription factor androgen receptor. However, 20-40% of patients developed further into castration-resistant disease, indicating other factors can induce cancer survival. We seek to investigate the specific cargo responsible for the adaptive response of prostate cancer upon drug treatments.


About Clara Biotech

At Clara Biotech, our mission is to enable therapeutic and diagnostic discovery and support clinical applications by providing the tools researchers need to harness the full potential of exosomes.

Founded by scientists who have spent much of their professional careers contending with the trials and tribulations of exosome research, Clara Biotech’s firsthand experience has equipped us with a firm understanding of the challenges that need to be overcome to move the exosome and extracellular vesicle industry forward. Clara Biotech was established in 2018, and is based in Lawrence, KS.

If you are interested in accelerating your research, you can apply to our Exosome Isolation Kit Early Access Program. Secure your spot here.