Press Release

Aura Biosciences Announces Publication Describing Selective Binding of Viral-like Particles to Cancer Cells

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Aura Biosciences, a biotechnology company developing a new class of therapies to target and selectively destroy cancer cells, announced today the publication of a new paper demonstrating how its synthetic Viral-like Particles (VLP) modeled on the human papillomavirus (HPV) are able to bind uniquely to cancer cells while leaving healthy surrounding tissue unharmed.

The paper, The Molecular Determinants of Papillomavirus Capsid Binding to Tumor Cells, was published online in the International Journal of Cancer by authors Dr. Rhonda C. Kines of Aura, and Drs. Douglas R. Lowy, John T. Schiller and colleagues of the National Cancer Institute. Building on previous work that demonstrated the mechanism of HPV infection, the authors investigated the molecular basis for the discovery that HPVs selectively bind a wide range of solid tumors in vitro and in vivo. They determined that tumor cells differ from healthy cells in the over-expression and modifications of heparan sulfate proteoglycans on their membrane as well as on the extracellular matrix, which provides a unique binding site for HPV virions and for engineered VLPs. They demonstrated that healthy intact tissue is resistant to this kind of binding, underscoring the potential utility of these types of synthetic VLPs for selectively delivering diagnostic agents and/or cytotoxic drugs to tumor cells for the development of a novel class of targeted therapies.

“This paper is an important step forward in our understanding of why our HPV-modeled Viral-like Particles represent such a promising advance in the selective targeting of tumor cells,” said Elisabet de los Pinos, founder and CEO of Aura Biosciences. “As we prepare for clinical testing of our lead program in ocular melanoma, we are building on a strong foundation of preclinical evidence to support the potential application of our approach in a wide array of cancers, including bladder, prostate, and head and neck cancers.”

Aura’s lead product, AU-011, has the potential to be the first therapy ever developed for the primary treatment of ocular (uveal) melanoma, the most common primary cancer of the eye. AU-011 utilizes an HPV VLP to deliver a cell-killing laser-activated molecule selectively to cancer cells in the eye after a simple intra-vitreal injection. In vivo results in a rabbit model presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in 2015 demonstrated complete tumor necrosis following three administrations as confirmed by histopathology, while sparing the adjacent retina.

About Aura Biosciences

Aura Biosciences is developing a new class of therapies to target and selectively destroy tumor cells. Its lead program in ocular melanoma, developed under a CRADA with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), has been granted orphan drug status by the US Food and Drug Administration. For more information, visit


Aura Biosciences
Dan Quinn, 781-475-7974
Ten Bridge Communications