Many professors might be ready to hang up their lab coats after 40 years of teaching.
But for Dr. Subhash Basu, retirement was an opportunity to do more work.
Basu, once a professor in chemistry and biochemistry, is working on establishing the Cancer Drug Delivery
Research Foundation, a foundation located in Innovation Park researching methods for drug delivery for compounds to cure cancer and more.
“This May I became a Professor Emeritus,” Basu said. “My goal is to do research.”
The foundation will be listed as a non-profit foundation, independent from Notre Dame. However, Basu will continue much of the research he started at Notre Dame, and he will also work with graduate, postdoctoral and undergraduate students.
Since 2004, Basu and his research team have isolated five compounds known to be apoptotic agents — compounds that trigger the death of cancer cells. Betulinic acid, one of the compounds, is already used as an herbal treatment in China for cancer.
“Ordinarily, our normal cells are born and die,” he said. “This is called ‘programmed cell death.’ Cancer cells get immortality.”
He and his team discovered the cancer cells still have the “machinery” to have programmed cell death, but it is isolated and inactive in the cell. The compounds they have created trigger this cell death, eliminating the cancer cells.
“This could be beneficial in a drug,” Basu said.
A synthetic liposome “bullet” was developed for the delivery of the drugs into the cells, he said. The bullet attaches to the cancer cells and delivers the medicine, triggering cell death.
Basu was recently invited to speak at the 8th Annual Congress of International Drug Discovery Science and Technology in Beijing in October for the second year in a row. At the conference he will speak on the compounds and possible delivery methods for treatment in breast and colon cancer therapy.
At the conference, Basu will also be working with Dr. Rui Ma, a 2008 graduate whom Basu taught.
Basu received letters from University President Fr. John Jenkins and President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh wishing him well on his research endeavors.
Basu said he and his team have published more than 250 papers on the treatment.
“The whole purpose [of the foundation and published papers] is to tell the world we’ve found different compounds,” he said.
Once he arrives at Innovation Park, Basu said he would apply for a patent for the liposome bullet and continue research.
“We’re going one drug at a time, to find the dose,” he said. “Then we’ll be testing intravenously to see them work. This phase will be done at the foundation.”
All of this, he said, will be powered through national and international grants.
“We’re going to make [the lab] bigger, establish patents,” he said. “I’ve been working on this idea for 40 years.”