Rutgers start-up is repurposing gum disease bacteria to treat cancer

New Brunswick, NJ - August 9, 2017 

A Rutgers University researcher is using a bacteria that causes tooth disease to develop a cancer-fighting therapy.

Scott Kachlany has received a $4.4 million commitment from California-based Kairos Ventures for his work on the bacterium Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, which is commonly associated with periodontal disease and other forms of both oral and nonoral infections. Kachlany discovered that the bacteria can create a protein that kills leukemia cells. In addition, he found that it can be utilized as a treatment for autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The therapy, known as Leukothera, has proven successful in animal tests for toxicity. “Even at very high doses of the drug, there are no side effects,” says Kachlany.

Kairos Ventures pledged the $4.4M to Actinobac Biomed, a start-up Kachlany founded, to support the final stages of preclinical development before the drug’s next testing phase.

“Actinobac Biomed is extremely pleased and grateful that Kairos Ventures has agreed to provide investment funding to support our drug development activities,” says Benjamin A. Belinka, Jr., president and CEO of Actinobac. “Their financial assistance will be vital for the advancement of Leukothera … into human clinical trials and thereby allow it to eventually become available to treat patients suffering from hematological malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma.”

Actinobac seeks to secure matching funds from the National Institutes of Health to support a human clinical trial for the therapy. Kachlany hopes to begin studying the effects of the drug in human patients with lymphoma and leukemia within the next three years.