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Kiwi-made technology could cure cancer

Original article by Lucy Warhurst, Newshub

A New Zealand-made technology behind a promising breakthrough cancer treatment is about to get a major boost.

The Auckland engineering professor behind it has become the first Australasian to secure a spot in the world-leading Johnson and Johnson Innovation centre, JLABS, in Houston. The science is mind-blowing, but Professor Steve Henry reckons it’s as simple as Lego.

“We have a functional head which fits onto a spacer,” says Prof Henry as he demonstrates by sticking a Lego head on a body.

“Then we have a lipid tail,” he attaches the Lego legs, “which fits into there and that is the architecture of all Kode constructs.”

What he’s talking about is a molecule he’s created. These molecules can be painted onto a surface, which changes the surface and therefore the way it acts and interacts.

“We can engineer this molecule to do just about anything you want it to do.”

He’s designed a series of Kode Technology paints, one of which could cure cancer.

They’ve discovered that by changing the surface of cancer cells to make them appear like foreign tissue, it will enable our immune systems to recognise and destroy them.

“We’ve made a biological paint which can be injected into a cancer cell, and it will teach your body how to recognise your own cancer, and theoretically you could inject a single tumour and all your tumours will go.”

Human clinical trials begin next year.

But there are thousands of possibilities. The next generation of Kode Technology paints will prevent surgical implant infections, by coating the surface of a hip, knee or breast implant they can make it self-sterilising.

They’re developing bandages which heal you faster, pollution capturing facemasks and make-up that protects skin from damaging pollutants.

It’s been in the making for 20 years, and now Prof Henry has secured a spot at JLABS, it will allow further uses to accelerate.

“This, in particular, provides a launching pad for AUT staff and students to connect with the very best researchers and companies in the world,” says Professor Enrico Haemmerle, AUT dean of engineering.

“It’s about perseverance and demonstrating that innovation is more than invention and it is about people creating value through the implementation of ideas.”

But despite gaining overseas interest they insist the technology will stay here, with New Zealand painting a picture of the future of medicine.