Ariel University

   Michael Firer , Prof.  
   The Faculty of Engineering  

General Information
Name Firer Michael
Department The Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology
Administrative Responsibilities Chairman
Academic Rank Associate Professor
Personal Website
1979 Monash University - - Melbourne - Australia
1983 Melbourne University - Immunology - Melbourne - Australia
Research Interests
Our overall research focus is the integration of advances in biology, chemistry and physics towards development of applications in immunology and cell biology, in particular cancer and immune-based diseases. One of our main goals is to develop methods, compounds and materials capable of specifically targeting drugs or toxins to target cells. Given that current chemotherapeutic strategies often carry with them significant morbidity due to the non-specific effect of drugs on healthy cells, the delivery of cytotoxins to target cells should result in increased drug efficacy and a reduction of therapeutic dose. We have already developed a number of Ligand-Drug conjugates (LDC) wherein a drug is chemically bound to a targeting compound such as small molecule, peptide or protein for which the target cancer cell possesses a specific receptor. These conjugates efficiently and specifically induce target cell destruction and do not result in development of drug resistance. The discovery of cell specific targeting molecules is an important aspect of our work. Using phage display peptide libraries we have identified peptides that bind Multiple Myeloma or Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemic cells and are further developing these for both therapy and diagnosis of these diseases. We developed a novel improvement to a recognized therapeutic process known as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). PDT involves the use of photosensitizer molecules that are taken up by cancer cells. When activated by visible light, these photensitizers induce the production of oxygen radicals which in turn induce cell death. Light activation has traditionally been supplied by external lasers, limiting the application of PDT to tumors located close to the body's surface, or the use of laser-embedded catheters for more internal growing tumors. Our technology, termed Targeted Intracellular Photodynamic Therapy (TIP), overcomes these limitations by providing chemical light activation of the photosensitizer. This patented process permits the targeting and destruction of tumor cells anywhere in the body without the use of external light or catheters. As TIP kills cells by mechanisms different to those of most current drugs, the technology will also expand the arsenal of chemotherapeutic options. The technology has been licensed to an overseas biotechnology company who are funding its further development and application as a cancer therapy.