The Marcus Foundation is granting $6.5 million to tumor monorail project based at a research lab launched at Georgia Tech by Ian’s Friends Foundation.Ians-Friends

The tumor monorail project is a collaboration among Georgia Tech, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University.

“Support from the Marcus Foundation will enable us to accelerate the development of a novel tumor monorail device to treat brain tumors in patients,” said Georgia Tech biomedical engineer Ravi Bellamkonda, the lead investigator. “Research labs such as ours are set up to achieve scientific and engineering breakthroughs, but for these breakthroughs to reach patients, we need to follow good manufacturing practices, rigorous safety and quality testing, adhere to FDA guidelines for obtaining regulatory approvals, and design appropriate clinical trials. All of these processes are going to be greatly enhanced and accelerated with this critical and visionary Marcus Foundation support.”

The grant will enable device design and prototyping, development of a Food and Drug Administration-compliant manufacturing process, and FDA approval for a clinical investigational new drug study in Atlanta.

Atlanta-based Ian’s Friends Foundation supports pediatric brain tumor research, although the monorail project could be used for pediatric and adult tumors. The foundation is named for Jewish community member Ian Yagoda, who was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer at age 2 in 2005.

The research team has demonstrated that the tumor monorail device can significantly reduce brain tumors in rodents by guiding tumors to grow into a specially designed “gel sink.” That study, published in Nature Materials in 2014, received worldwide media attention and interest.

The project exemplifies Georgia Tech and Atlanta’s strength in developing innovative technologies to improve child health — a burgeoning area of research known as pediatric bioengineering.