Harnessing the body’s natural defenses against cancer

We’re using a new approach to stopping a deadly disease with exosome-based cancer therapeutics.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States.

But did you know that many people develop cancerous growths that disappear or go undetected? Autopsy studies after non-cancer related deaths showed that 39 percent of women age 40-49 had breast cancer at the time of death. The lifetime incidence of breast cancer is only 12 percent. This indicates that many of these cancers would never have been identified. Similar studies on men showed that 34 percent of men age 40-49 had prostate cancer, but the lifetime incidence rate is only 14 percent.

How does this happen?

The answer lies in the body’s own natural defenses. Most studies have focused on specialized immune cells that can eliminate cancerous growths. However, we have identified a non-immune cell type that also has significant anti-cancer properties. These cells produce small vesicles called exosomes. The exosomes attack cancer cells while bypassing normal cells. Now, Exovita Biosciences is working to harness the body’s own defenses against cancer. We are developing the next generation of biological cancer therapeutics by enhancing the natural defense mechanisms of exosomes.


Exosomes are micro-vesicles—imagine tiny bubbles—that cells release to communicate with other cells. Exosomes are found in all bodily fluids, including blood. Exosomes contain proteins, lipids, DNA, and/or RNA fragments and are secreted by one cell and then absorbed by other cells. The contents of the exosome determine the “message” sent from one cell to another. Targeting molecules on the exterior of the exosome precisely determines which cells will receive the message. The unique capability of exosomes—likened to the body’s natural traffic control system—has given rise to a new field of research, and resulted in a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2013. Commercial applications so far are focused on diagnostics, rather than therapeutics.

Research has identified a specific population of cells that produce exosomes that are effective in killing cancer cells.

These exosomes do not affect normal cells. We are working to develop exosome-based therapies that are cytotoxic to cancer cells, yet non-toxic to surrounding tissue. Our goal is to yield more effective treatments with fewer side effects.

Conventional cancer therapies such chemotherapy and radiation therapy kill healthy cells along with cancer cells. Patients often suffer from serious side effects and complications, further compromising their health and quality of life. Exovita’s exosome-based therapeutics have the potential to offer significant benefits:

  • Highly specific, localized treatment. Our exosomes have been shown to attack cancer cells only, leaving health cells intact. This can minimize or eliminate harsh side effects.
  • Avoid drug resistance, maximize effectiveness. Exosomes are produced by the body and are the natural method of cell-to-cell communication. They evolved to recognize multi-faceted targets, making drug resistance less likely.

Exovita is currently focused on breast cancer. We are in the process of testing the technology against other types of cancer and determining the best delivery mechanism. For more specifics on our technology, we encourage you to contact us.


Dr. Kristina Trujillo’s exosome cancer research is supported by federal and private foundation grants. Past $138,000 from the American Cancer Society (2008-10), $361,000 R21 grant from the NIH National Cancer Institute (2012-14) and $25,000 from the University of New Mexico Clinical and Translational Science Center. Pending Two grants are pending: one with the American Cancer Society and an RO1 grant proposal with the NIH National Cancer Institute. Additional grant opportunities, including SBIR and STTR, are under evaluation.

Exovita Biosciences, Inc., is a New Mexico-based biotech startup company that is developing potentially transformative, exosome-based cancer therapeutics that harness the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer.

We have licensed patent-pending technology for our cancer-fighting drug candidate developed at the University of New Mexico. Our initial focus is breast cancer, with the idea of leveraging the technology and resulting therapeutics to other forms of cancer such as pancreatic, colon and prostate. We believe Exovita’s technology is the potential foundation for more effective cancer treatments.

Partners supporting Exovita include the New Mexico Startup Factory, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, STC.UNM, and Peacock Myers, PC.

Leadership Team

Kristina Trujillo, PhD
Principal Investigator, UNM

Dr. Trujillo is a research assistant professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Her research focus is cancer biology, cancer metabolism and breast cancer. She is a grantee of the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society.

John Chavez
CEO + Board Chair

Mr. Chavez is a serial entrepreneur, private investor, founder of the New Mexico Startup Factory, president of the New Mexico Angels, and managing director of Phase One Ventures’ biotech and nanotechnology fund.

Wayne Laslie
Pharma Advisor

Mr. Laslie has more than 35 years of experience in international drug development and commercialization at Pfizer, Sanofi, Otsuka America, and Myriad. He currently is CEO of Zocere, Inc., developing neuroprotectant drugs.

Brad Trom
Business Advisor

Mr. Trom is the CEO of Lovelace Pharmacy, a division of Lovelace Health System. A pharmacist by training, he has 30 years of experience managing pharmacy operations for national retail chains, including CVS and Albertsons.

Candice Lee Owens
Corporate Counsel

Ms. Owens is the founder and principal of The Owens Law Firm, a boutique business law firm with offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM. Previously, she was a partner at Sommer Udall Sutin Law Firm and practiced at Cooley LP in Palo Alto, Calif.

John Chavez, CEO
Exovita Biotech


1155 University SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106