ProThera Biologics Awarded Grants from the National Institutes of Health for Major Unmet Medical Needs
Start-Up Company Received $2.8 Million to Develop Promising Treatments for Sepsis and Anthrax Intoxication
Providence, R.I., June 26, 2006 — Slater Technology Fund today announced that one of its portfolio companies, ProThera Biologics, has been awarded a total of $2.8 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue therapies for sepsis and anthrax intoxication. ProThera Biologics develops and commercializes integrated, protein-based therapeutic products applicable to numerous unmet medical needs.
The first of two awards, a $1.8-million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, will enable the company to study the efficacy of its proprietary therapeutic proteins in sepsis. Treatment benefit is accomplished by restoring the proper balance of key natural serine protease inhibitors, known as inter-alpha inhibitor proteins (IaIp). Sepsis is a severe condition characterized by an overwhelming systemic response to infection, which can rapidly lead to organ dysfunction and death. Each year, the nearly 800,000 newly diagnosed cases in the United States represent an annual healthcare cost of $17 billion. The 30-50% mortality rate underscores the acute, unmet medical need.
Yow-Pin Lim, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of ProThera Biologics, is the Principal Investigator of the grant project and is collaborating with Steven M. Opal, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Brown Medical School, who will direct clinical trials in septic patients at the Memorial, Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals.
In addition, ProThera Biologics has been awarded a $1-million, 2-year Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This grant will enable the company to continue the development of inter-alpha inhibitor proteins as a therapeutic for exposure to the anthrax bacterium. Combating this bioterrorism threat is major initiative of the government’s bio-defense strategy. In 2001, five people died when the lethal microbe was deliberately spread through the U.S. mail. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified it as a Category A bioterror agent; that is, among those that pose the greatest threats to national security due to ease of transmission, high mortality and morbidity rate, potential for public panic, and special public health measures required in response to an epidemic.
ProThera’s novel, proprietary technology is focused on blocking the harmful anthrax toxin, and preventing the severe – usually fatal – inflammation that follows. Treatment benefit is accomplished not only by inhibiting furin, the key cleaving enzyme of anthrax toxin, by inter-alpha inhibitor proteins, but also by fighting the deadly inflammation, a complication similar to that presented in sepsis. This approach provides ProThera with a distinct competitive advantage against those companies targeting the anthrax bacteria itself.
Dr. Lim is conducting the research at the company and again collaborating with Dr. Opal at the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Pathogens (CBEP) at the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, who serves as Principal Investigator in this anthrax study.
“These grants recognize the promising research ongoing at ProThera Biologics that has already identified and continues to find exciting new therapeutic applications for inter-alpha inhibitor proteins,” said Dr. Lim. “Our goal is to develop products that will address major unmet medical needs and significant markets. I am extremely excited and proud that the NIH has recognized the scientific value and commercialization potential of our translational and clinical research.”
“ProThera is making great progress operating in accord with a traditional biotech strategy,” stated Richard G. Horan, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund. “Focusing on the clinical development of a particular class of therapeutic protein, the company has leveraged a limited equity capitalization with significant federal grant funding. In addition, the company has developed proprietary biomarkers to stratify the patient populations to be treated, which is an emerging paradigm becoming more widely-practiced among biopharmaceutical companies. We’re very excited about the progress being made and look forward to working with the company in completing a next round of financing.”
About ProThera Biologics
ProThera Biologics was founded in 2001 by Yow-Pin Lim, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Douglas C. Hixson, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at Brown Medical School, to develop products based on the natural serine protease inhibitors, called inter-alpha inhibitor proteins (IaIp). Combining technology developed at Rhode Island Hospital with the founders’ experience in protein/immunochemistry, ProThera Biologics is dedicated to developing clinical applications of IaIp as a therapeutic agent and biomarker for human diseases. The company received initial startup funding from the Slater Technology Fund in mid-2002.
About Slater Technology Fund
The Slater Technology Fund provides seed capital investment in support of entrepreneurs who have the vision, leadership and commitment to build substantial business enterprises. Slater typically invests at the inception stage in the development of a new venture, often based upon ideas and technologies originating in academic institutions, government research laboratories or commercial enterprises located within the region. Investments are premised upon the principals being committed to basing and building their businesses in Rhode Island. For more information, visit www.slaterfund.com.
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