Arab-Israeli scientist Amal Ayoub is going for the gold –not aiming for a medal in an Olympic sport, but to help cure cancer.
Ayoub’s startup, Metallo Therapy, is premised on her earlier research showing that metal nanoparticles – especially gold – introduced into malignant tumors can enhance the effects of radiation therapy while reducing damage to neighboring healthy cells.
“Gold is a big atom containing a lot of electrons,” she explains to ISRAEL21c. “Under radiation it can absorb the rays better than smaller atoms can, and its electrons can emit secondary radiation efficient in destroying the cancer cells.”
Working with two Arab-Israeli employees – a male chemical engineer with a degree from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and a female biologist – Ayoub is perfecting a method to produce the gold nanoparticles efficiently on an industrial scale, and has developed a molecule to coat them so that they do not cause toxic interactions with body tissues.
Isn’t gold a very expensive material to work with? “Yes, but since we are talking about very small amounts — a couple of milligrams — the price is not an issue,” she explains. “It’s the same cost as developing any other drug.”
So far, she’s done all this with three years’ worth of funding provided by the Israeli Chief Scientist’s Office through the NGT Technology Incubator in Nazareth, the only applied sciences company devoted specifically to the Arab-Israeli community’s scientific, technological and entrepreneurial potential.
In addition, Metallo Therapy recently received $300,000 from the pharmaceutical division of Arkin Holdings, a fund established by Israeli healthcare entrepreneur Mori Arkin, to begin advanced animal trials using mice.
“They are waiting for results before deciding if they’ll invest more,” relates Ayoub, who is the company’s chief executive and chief technology officer. “We are now fine-tuning [in the lab], and at some point in a couple of months we will move on to more in-vivo studies when we know the exact amounts and concentrations to use.”
Arkin Holdings’ Pini Orbach stated: “We decided to invest in Metallo Therapy because we believe it has innovative technology for treating cancer, excellent basic science and management with the necessary skills. We also believe that the Arab community has much talent in the life sciences, and that investments of this kind will help promote Jewish-Arab cooperation in various fields.”