Grant Given to Peritoneal Mesothelioma Drug Maker

A Phase II SBIR grant of $1.88 million was offered to ZenBio, Inc., to commercialize human peritoneal mesothelial cells. With the grant money, the company will further study the applications and commercialization potential for these cells in research for cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial cells. These cells line the major cavities of the body. When they line the lungs they are called pleural mesothelial, and these are often the site of asbestos-induced mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelial cells line the abdominal cavity, and these are often the first site of metastasizing of ovarian cancer cells. In all locations, these cells line the tissues of the body to help organs move without friction, and according to the vice president of ZenBio, Inc., Ben Buehrer, Ph.D., “These are highly active cells…. They secrete factors that can have local and systemic effects on several medical indications, from cancer to metabolic diseases.” With the funds from the grant, the use of these cells will be made available to the larger research community. Some studies at ZenBio have suggested that these mesothelial cells have an influence on the function of fat cells. Dr. Renee Lea-Currie, ZenBio’s Director of Cell Biology and the Principal Investigator of the program said, “Many of the factors involved in the progression of obesity and diabetes are actually made and secreted in large amounts by mesothelial cells.”

Dr. Lea-Currie claims that the grant will “allow us to dig deeper into the obesity connection while supplying researchers with a validated human cell system for their own discovery efforts.” ZenBio, Inc. has been providing the research materials to study human metabolic disease for over a decade. This privately owned company was founded in 1995, and has been working toward its mission to make available to the biomedical research community the highest quality of reagents, cells, and services. Among its past accomplishments, ZenBio has pioneered the engineering of tissues with adult fat cells. The company’s current focus is to examine the how obesity contributes to human metabolic disease.