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FACULTY OF MEDICINE AND DENTISTRY, DEPARTMENT OF ONCOLOGY
Team: Todd Mereniuk, Edan Foley, Dennis Hall
Patent 10,087,448: Synthetic lethality in cancer

Synthetic lethality is a one-two punch against cancer. In boxing, this means a rapid succession of two blows; neither single hit knocks out your opponent, but the rapid and forceful combination of two hits can bring them to their knees. In cancer, a similar effect can be achieved by using two highly targeted drugs in a cancer cell at once; neither alone may kill the cancer cell, but the combination can be highly effective. Weinfeld and his team identified a number of common mutations in cancer cells that are synthetically lethal with human polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase (PNKP), an enzyme that plays a critical role in the repair of damaged DNA. Blocking PNKP in already-mutated cancer cells may be the one-two punch needed to kill certain cancers without the use of toxic chemotherapy. Weinfeld and his collaborators are designing and testing drugs that block PNKP with the goal of providing more effective, less-toxic cancer therapies.

The TEC Edmonton Innovation Awards celebrate the success of University of Alberta researchers. In 2019, awards were presented to ten University of Alberta spin-off companies and nine research teams that received a US patent and have an industry partner.