Kris Grohn, a graduate of the Weyburn Comp School, is the lead biochemist for a study at Ichor Therapeutics in rural upstate New York that explores a potential treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). AML claims the lives of more than three-quarters of those diagnosed with it and, according to the World Health Organization, it accounts for more than 100,000 deaths per year.
The research Grohn is conducting builds on a previous study that showed a molecule called C60 prevents the formation of tumors in rats and may be part of a more effective and less invasive treatment than current options. The initial study Grohn conducted confirmed previous findings that C60 had a positive impact on AML tumor growth and paved the way for additional study.
A subsequent, and much larger study run by Grohn and his team, had a surprising finding when they began using C60 purchased from a large chemical distributor. After the publication of the very first findings regarding C60 many individuals began self-administering C60 in the hope of treating various ailments.
These individuals are able to purchase C60 from distributors who state it is “not for human consumption” but also describe many positive qualities allowing the purchaser to assume those benefits would be found in themselves as well. While initial research with C60 showed a reduction in tumor growth, the study Grohn conducted using commercially available C60 found a massive increase in tumor growth.
Grohn set out to solve this mystery and in doing so developed a method to detect specific degradants of C60 which were previously undetected. Ultimately, Grohn discovered that C60-olive oil solutions are sensitive to light and that commercially available options show evidence of degradation due to light, which may cause them to become toxic. Research being conducted by Grohn now is studying the toxic nature of degraded C60. All of these findings are critical for both researchers using C60 and anyone choosing to consume it.
When C60 is prepared correctly and not exposed to light the positive effect on tumor growth remains. Without this finding any further research in to C60 could be severely retarded and a potential cure for this devastating disease left unexplored.
“We did not expect that the laboratory grade chemicals we purchased from a major distributor would be the cause for these problems. Recognizing this issue not only improves our research but will positively impact any other labs using C60,” Grohn said.
Grohn has conducted other research with Ichor Therapeutics including a case study which was published in 2015 in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology that looked at successful methods the lab has used to grow rapidly at a much lower cost than previously thought possible. That paper explored very tactical points about specific equipment purchases as well as highly strategic information regarding reducing risk and enhancing corporate stability.
Since Grohn was hired by Ichor in August, 2015 he has become an essential part of this investor-backed biomedical startup. The CEO of Ichor Therapeutics, Kelsey Moody, said, “The research we are doing may potentially save thousands of lives and Kris is leading that charge.” Moody also points out, “As well as being a skilled biochemist, Kris is a mentor for new staff members using his deep knowledge of molecular biology and analytical chemistry to explain topics like liquid chromatography and spectrophotometry.”
The C60 studies are one of two major avenues of research being pursued by Ichor. Research is also being done on age-related macular degeneration, a presently incurable eye condition that leads to blindness and effects over 20 million people worldwide. Grohn’s research is expected to be published later this year in a peer-reviewed biomedical journal.
Kris is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Applied Science is Biochemistry and biotechnology. He has previously worked for Integrated Crop Management Services in Saskatoon where he performed contract research services involving the assessment of pesticide efficiency and GMO yield of experimental products sourced from Fortune 500 companies, including Monsanto and Bayer Corporation. Grohn’s family resides in Weyburn and his mother wishes he would visit more.
The little time Kris does not spend in the lab he enjoys spending reminding his American coworkers that he is still a proud Canadian and that U.S. hockey is cute.