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A Vascularized Blood-Brain Barrier Model for In Vitro Testing of Drug and Immunotherapy Delivery

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43NS132676-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43NS132676
Amount: $294,998.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 105
Solicitation Number: PA22-176
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-05-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-04-30
Small Business Information
Corona del Mar, CA 92625-3034
United States
DUNS: 117006954
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (949) 244-5684
Business Contact
Phone: (949) 422-9050
Research Institution

The brain is a highly-specialized, finely-tuned organ that depends for its function on maintaining homeostasis
within narrowly-defined limits. This is achieved in large part by the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), which tightly
regulates what can and can’t get into the brain. Functionally, the BBB is the combined work of endothelial cells
(EC), pericytes and astrocytes, the latter two of which act on the EC to maintain an extensive network of tight
junctions, promote the expression of specialized transporters, and limit the rate of transcellular pinocytosis. This
lack of free transfer between blood and brain for non-lipophilic species severely limits the entry of many,
otherwise useful, small molecule drugs. For example, cisplatin (lt3% Brain/Plasma ratio), is effective in non-brain
tumors, but has poor penetrance and low efficacy against brain tumors such as glioma. Similarly, delivery of
immunotherapeutics such as bevacizumab (0.2%) and bi-specific antibodies is also limited, and much is still to
be understood regarding the delivery of immune cells to the brain, including CAR-Ts, NK cells, γδ T cells and
the patient’s own monocytes and lymphocytes. Finally, there are significant differences between mouse and
human physiology including in the immune system. Many drug developers are therefore turning to human cell-
based systems rather than mouse models. The primary goal of this Phase I SBIR application is to demonstrate
the feasibility of Aracari Biosciences’ proprietary technology to model appropriate drug and immunotherapeutic
delivery across the human BBB. Aracari’s patented core technology is a perfusable human vascular network
within a microfluidic device that fits in a convenient 96-well plate format. This technology has been successfully
developed into commercialized products including the vascularized micro-organ (VMOTM) and the vascularized
micro-tumor (VMTTM). Importantly, leukocytes can be perfused through the vessels and on stimulation they will
adhere and extravasate as they do in vivo. We have also developed a vascularized micro-brain (VMB), which is
the focus of this application. This incorporates a perfused neurovascular unit (NVU) comprised of human BBB
EC, pericytes and astrocytes, all embedded in a brain-mimicking extracellular matrix. The vessels show
upregulation of BBB transporters and junctional proteins, and greatly-reduced permeability compared to non-
NVU vessels. Tumor cells (glioma) can be added to model brain tumors (VMB-T) and the potential compromise
of the BBB. This model will provide unprecedented opportunities to study drug responses of glioma and other
brain tumors in a more natural environment. Our preliminary data show the feasibility of our goals which are:
Specific Aim 1: Characterize permeability of a small panel of brain-targeted drugs in the VMB and VMB-T
Specific Aim 2: Characterize delivery of a small panel of immunotherapeutic drugs in the VMB and VMB-T
Specific Aim 3: Characterize delivery of immune cells in the VMB and VMB-T
Completion of these aims will provide us with a unique tool we can offer to pharmaceutical companies for studies
on BBB properties, and delivery of neuroactive drugs and immuno-oncology drugs and cells.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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