National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded an $8.1M biodefense grant to develop new drugs to treat some of the world’s most dangerous diseases, including Ebola, plague, Marburg, Japanese encephalitis, and other lethal pathogens.
The recipients are a collaborative research effort between the University of Washington (UW), University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, and Seattle-based biotech company Kineta, Inc.
The project leverages discoveries from ongoing collaborations between Kineta and UW to develop novel antiviral drugs and vaccine boosters called adjuvants. Dr. Michael Katze, a UW Professor of Microbiology and Associate Director of the Washington Regional Primate Research Center, will provide bioinformatics and systems biology genomics analysis. Dr. Shawn Iadonato, Chief Scientific Officer at Kineta, will lead drug optimization and in-vivo pharmacology work. Dr. Thomas Geisbert, of University of Texas Medical Branch and the Galveston National Lab (GNL), will oversee research on Biosafety Level 4 (BSL 4) viral agents, including Ebola and Nipah viruses.
“This award enables us to push further and work with more high priority viruses,” said UW Professor Dr. Michael Gale, Jr., principal investigator of the grant. “These diseases are major concerns of the United States government for their risk of sparking a pandemic and their potential use as bioterrorist weapons. By utilizing an innate immune pathway we hope to develop better drugs that won’t be out-smarted by viral mutation.”
The new infusion of support will help Kineta’s advancement of two small molecule drug candidates. The biotech company also received a $2.8M NIAID grant in 2011 for the advancement of drugs that target deadly RNA viruses.