Endangered SBIR/STTR seed funding has driven great innovation

With time running out, the scientific community is urging congressional renewal of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs, which have funded thousands of vital innovations in the last 40 years.

Unless Congress acts by Sept. 31, federal funding will cease for the SBIR/STTR programs. As we’ve reported, it appears there is now solid congressional support for the grants, but the deadline for renewal is close.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) is a major supporter of the program, and many BIO members have benefitted, including these innovations highlighted as “success stories” by the National Institutes of Health:

Cognition Therapeutics: “ ‘I felt strongly that the way to move the needle and modify Alzheimer’s disease course was to stop this protein toxin known as the amyloid beta oligomer,’ says (Susan) Catalano, referring to small clumps of the amyloid beta protein that disrupt communication in the brain. The company employed a unique way to screen for potential drugs by running experiments on actual brain cells instead of the surrogates most other researchers use. Through this screening process, Cognition’s scientists narrowed their search down to one molecular compound that prevents the ‘clumps’ from latching onto brain cells.” Read More

Dare Bioscience: “A 2018 Fast-Tracked Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded a clinical trial on a new self-inserted hormone-free birth control ring. The results of the clinical trial showed the product blocked more than 90 percent of the sperm, which is a good indication it could be as effective as the birth control pill, says Johnson.” Read More

ImmuNext: “In 2012 ImmuNext received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which helped the researchers test a drug meant to suppress tumor growth by turning off the immune system’s “brakes.” Successful results led to a licensing agreement in 2012 with Janssen Pharmaceutica and a re-licensing agreement in 2020 with Curis, with hopes to start phase one clinical trials next year.” Read More

Neurocrine: “Up to 11 percent of women of reproductive age could have endometriosis, an undiagnosed painful condition that makes the menstrual cycle harder and is linked to infertility. It’s caused by uterine tissue growth outside of the uterus and there is no cure. … Eventually San Diego-based Neurocrine Biosciences would develop a faster-acting endometriosis treatment by integrating the fields of immunology, neurology, and endocrinology—the study of the immune system, the nervous system, and hormones—an innovative approach that could lead to better pharmaceutical solutions. … In 2000 Neurocrine was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant.” Read More

Recursion: “It started with a competition between a biologist and a computer program to see who could better predict which drug candidates would make better medicine.” Now Recursion “is studying dozens of drug candidates and completes half a million robot-run experiments a day, which now Gibson says out-compete human predictors. This expansion was possible thanks to the more than $200 million in private funding. … it was early NIH support that paved the way for acquiring those private funds.” Read More

Tetra Therapeutics: “Using SBIR grants from the NIH, Tetra discovered a compound that helps strengthen brain processes. Early research indicated their drug could help nerve cells forge connections that are underdeveloped in people with Fragile X syndrome, as well as help maintain connections in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Gurney says their drug does not suffer from the side effects plaguing drugs that target similar areas of the brain, like nausea and diarrhea.” Read More

Xeris Pharmaceuticals: “Because of Phase I and II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, Xeris Pharmaceuticals specializes in formulations of injectable medications that do not include water. This technology, called XeriSol, allows them to create injections that instead contain a biocompatible solvent called dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a clear, viscous liquid that looks much like water and can hold medicine like glucagon without degrading it.” Read More

Further SBIR/STTR grants awarded to BIO members

Scores of BIO members have been awarded one or more grants from the SBIR/STTR programs to develop their ideas. Below is a partial list of just some of those recipients:

Aequor, Inc. received an award for work on “Safe, non-toxic, green cleaners.”

Amyris Biotechnologies received four awards for work advancing sustainable ingredients made with synthetic biology.

Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation (AGTC) received four awards for work focused on gene therapy.

Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, Inc. (AskBio) received four awards, including for work in Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.

Caribou Biosciences, Inc. received two awards for its work in genome editing and cell therapy development.

CODA Biotherapeutics, Inc. received an award for “Development of a non-opioid chemogenetic therapy for chronic neuropathic pain.”

Codagenix, Inc. received 13 awards for vaccine work, including several for work on dengue vaccines.

Curie Co, Inc. received two awards, including one for “Production of Biocidal Enzymes for Antimicrobial Applications.”

FluGen, Inc. received five awards for vaccine work.

Genomatica, Inc. received 31 awards for a range of work using bioengineering and computers to create more sustainable materials.

Gevo, Inc. received six awards for work with isobutanol and biofuels production.

Ginkgo Bioworks received eight awards for work ranging from plant-inspired fragrances to antibiotic resistance to bioproduction of feedstocks.

Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. received six awards, including for work involving treatments for anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and autism.

MacroGenics, Inc. received 11 awards for its work involving proteins, cancer, vaccines and more.

MaxCyte, Inc. received three awards for work in lentiviral vector manufacture and cell loading.

Nanoscope Technologies (affiliated with Nanoscope Therapeutics Inc.) received five awards for work in the area of age-related macular degeneration.

Onconova Therapeutics, Inc. received nine awards, for work on a range of treatments, including for lymphoma, HIV, neurological disorders and epileptogenesis.

Recombinetics, Inc. received 18 awards, many for work with swine to advance care for humans.

ReNetX Bio, Inc. received two awards both involving Nogo therapy.

SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. received three awards, for work on polyclonal antithymocyte globulins and polyclonal antibodies.

Sangamo Biosciences, Inc. (now Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc.) received 15 awards in a range of areas, such as AIDS/HIV, cancer therapies, gene targeting to repair the sickle cell and “zinc finger proteins for generating value-added crops.”

Vestaron Corporation received two awards for work in insecticide peptides.

Virent Energy Systems LLC received two awards for work on making clean fuels from biomass.

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