Marcelle Machluf's nano-ghost could revolutionize cancer treatment

#10: Prof. Marcelle Machluf

Marcel Machluf (photo credit: Courtesy)
Marcel Machluf
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two years ago, when Prof. Marcelle Machluf was chosen to light one of the 12 torches at Israel’s 70th Independence anniversary ceremony, Technion President Peretz Lavie said she “is a role model for many generations of students.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. Machluf, who was born in Morocco in 1963 and brought to Israel as a one-year-old baby by her single mother and grandmother, is one of Israel’s top female scientists and has received numerous awards to prove it. In 2004, she received the Alon Award for excellence in science. In 2006, she took home the Gurwith Award for achievements in gene therapy. She won the Hershel Rich Technion Innovation Award in 2010 and the Juludan Research Prize in 2014. And in 2016, her achievements in advanced cancer therapies were acknowledged by the Science and Technology Ministry in Jerusalem as one of Israel’s 60 most impactful developments and discoveries.
The main focus of her work now is the development of nano-ghost technology, one of the smallest but most-powerful drug and gene delivery systems for cancer patients.
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A member of the faculty of the Technion’s Biotechnology and Food Engineering department, Machluf told The Jerusalem Post that her interest in nanotechnology began during her postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. However, when she returned to Israel in 2001, she “got more serious.”
The nano-ghost idea began in 2007 and she has been actively working on the project since 2009.
The technology offers a novel, versatile and highly selective targeted-delivery platform, which may overcome the limitations of conventional delivery systems.
“You can use it like a bus,” Machluf explained. “You load the bus with the drugs and it drives them to the site of the tumor, while sparing normal tissues.”
Machluf said the system is patented in the United States and Europe. While it is first being tested for the treatment of cancer, her hope is that the platform will be able to be used in the treatment of other diseases that are manifested by a severe inflammatory response.
By the High Holidays, Machluf said she hopes to have finalized the funding needed to open a company that will focus on bringing the nano-ghost platform to clinical trials. A committee of experts will them determine on which type of cancer or tumor the trials will focus and which type of drug will be administered by the NG.
In the meantime, while clinical trials are underway – she expects phase-I trials to take as long as four years and phase-II trials to take as long as three more years – Machluf and her team will work on studying the system and developing even better technology.
“We don’t just stop because we developed a platform,” she told the Post. “We want to know more about how it works. If we know that, then we can improve it and open the door to more possibilities of use.
“The amazing thing with research: It never stops,” Machluf continued. “If you achieve one goal, then you have another goal to achieve.”
She said that she is specifically proud to be producing the NG system in Israel.
“We are the Start-Up Nation,” she said, noting that cancer research specifically touches everyone’s lives. “I don’t know one person who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by cancer.
“There are many innovations in the field of cancer from Israel and in biotechnology in general,” she continued, “And I think there are more on the horizon. Israel will continue to hold a highly esteemed place in the world of cancer research.”