Virginia Catalyst announces grants for collaborative research projects

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The Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corp., known as Virginia Catalyst, announced Monday it has awarded almost $3 million to six collaborative bioscience commercialization projects in a new round of funding.

Virginia Catalyst is a not-for-profit corporation funded by the Virginia General Assembly’s general fund and seven of Virginia’s research universities. It supports projects that include university and private-sector partners. The organization has now awarded 24 grants totaling $10 million, combined with $20 million in matching funds.

“Virginia’s research universities are providing leadership on a national and global level in the life sciences by combining their intellectual and scientific prowess through collaborations to achieve critical mass,” Mike Grisham, CEO of Virginia Catalyst, said in a statement. “This competitive critical mass is attracting significant outside capital and industry participation to commercialize Virginia’s innovations, while creating high-paying jobs for Virginia.”

The six projects in this round of funding include:

INSPIRE brain cancer treatment:  VoltMed Inc. of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia received $800,000 with $1.7 million in matching funds provided by the National Institutes of Health. The company was spun out of U.Va. and is “developing a tumor treatment platform that selectively destroys brain cancer cells, including malignant glioma,” said Chris Arena, Vice President of VoltMed.

Funding from the Virginia Catalyst will support compliance for regulatory manufacturing and testing of the treatment.

BT-11: Oral therapeutic for inflammatory bowel disease: BioTherapeutics Inc. of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University will receive $800,000 with an equal match from the company.

BioTherapeutics is working to develop safer, more effective drugs for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. “Our lead compound, BT-11, is an oral first-in-class therapeutic for moderate to severe Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis,” says Josep Bassaganya-Riera, president and CEO of BioTherapeutics. “We anticipate filing an investigational new drug (IND) for BT-11 and entering Phase 1 and 2 clinical testing in 2018.”

Anti-inflammatory drug with to treat myocardial injury and prevent heart failure: Serpin Pharma of Manassas and George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University will receive $400,000 with an equal match provided by the company.

Accelerating  commercialization of the Diamond Mouse Model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH, a fatty liver disease): Sanyal Biotechnology of Richmond and Eastern Virginia Medical School and George Mason University will receive $100,000 with a match by Sanyal Biotechnology. The company allows clients to test medicines on mice who have developed NASH.

“Sanyal Bio is committed to developing cures for liver diseases like fatty liver and NASH that result from the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity,” said Rebecca Caffrey, founder and CEO, Sanyal Biotechnology. “This funding will help in the development of a tissue bank and provide some R&D into mechanisms driving the development of these diseases in our model.  This funding allows us to answer some key questions for our pharmaceutical company clients, so that we can grow our business faster.”

Translational research and pulsed, electric-field technologies for immune-oncology applications: Pulse Biosciences Inc. of Burlingame Calif. and Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School will receive $300,000 with a match from the company.

Bioengineering for the therapeutic delivery of massively expanded islet-derived human beta-cells (for treatment of diabetes): Proagenix Inc. of Rockville, Md., and Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia will receive $425,000 with $1.04 million in matching funds from the National Institutes of Health and Propagenix.

“This Virginia Catalyst research award will propel deployment of a unique combination of capabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and Propagenix to discover new approaches to improve islet transplantation for Type 1 diabetes,” said Brian Pollok, CEO of Propagenix. “The merger of bioengineering and material sciences expertise at these universities, with our proprietary cell expansion technology, has the promise of significantly changing the current equation of human islet cell therapy for patients suffering from this disease.”

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