Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 19, 2024

Postgrad wins top prize for cancer therapy

By Heather Barbakoff | November 14, 2007

For using bacteria and drug-filled molecular capsules, a postgraduate student from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has garnered the top prize at a national inventors competition.

Ian Cheong was awarded the grand prize at the 2007 Collegiate Inventors Competition, an event that was hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The winners were announced on Nov. 1 at the California Institute of Technology.

Cheong and 10 other finalists had to present their work to a panel of eight judges.

While designing the molecular package, Cheong's initiative was to find a way to avoid damaging or otherwise harming the healthy cells while bringing the cancer-killing chemicals to the contaminated cells only.

Cheong's answer was to add specially bundled chemotherapy to bacteria which would attack tumors.

Before these "chemo packs" could reach the tumor, he also added genetically modified bacteria especially attracted to the oxygen-starved center of tumors.

This bacterium would secrete an enzyme, which Cheong labeled liposomase.

This enzyme would be able to melt the outer layer of liposomes to release their anti-cancer contents.

In addition to the award, Cheong will receive $25,000 as a cash prize.

His cancer researcher advisor, Bert Vogelstein, will be awarded $15,000 in prize money.

Cheong is originally from Singapore and has earned his doctorate in both cell and molecular medicine from the Hopkins School of Medicine.

He is currently completely his postdoctoral studies at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

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