Senti Biosciences, Inc. awarded NIH grant

InteliSpark client, Senti Biosciences Inc. has been awarded an SBIR Phase I grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for their project, “engineering cell therapies to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)”.

IBD affects an estimated 1.5-3 million Americans and costs an estimated $14.6 billion each year, only doubling every decade. IBD is due to dysfunction of the immune system and affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, causing patients to experience painful conditions such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding. It can also lead to extraintestinal complications which include osteoporosis, kidney stones, joint pain, and various soft-tissue ailments. Depression and stress can also contribute to IBD flares. The complications of IBD can become serious and more than 1 out of 10 patients will require surgery within five years of diagnosis. There is no cure for IBD, and a majority of the current treatments have been seen to cause terrible side effects, and found to be not very effective.

Senti Biosciences plans to address the complications of inflammatory bowel disease by the use of their proprietary cell engineering technologies to develop a safer and more efficacious IBD therapy treatment. The technology is engineer to accelerate speed and precision of genetic control circuits implemented into living cells. These gene circuit technologies have the ability to turn mammalian cells into adaptive medicines that can sense disease states and respond by producing combinatorial therapies, offering the right amount of treatment at the right place and time. With unprecedented control over cellular function, Senti’s cell circuit technology has the capability to address diseases that are difficult to treat with existing drugs, especially beneficial for the control of immune-mediated diseases. Senti Biosciences is able to combat the challenges current immunotherapies experience such as keeping the efforts localized, spatially and temporally, by the ability to use the cell circuits and target multiple systemic components.

With the awarded funds, Senti will be able to develop a proof-of-concept data for novel technology in which an engineered genetic circuit will enable mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to sense the activation of a nuclear transcription factor that plays a key role in autoimmune disorders and responds by delivering anti-inflammatory therapeutics. Then proof-of-concept data will be collected from mouse studies of an autoimmune disease. Lastly, Senti will be able to shift efforts towards the completion of the preclinical pharmacokinetics, safety and efficacy studies allowing for an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA.

Wicked Device awarded Phase I SBIR grant from NIH

InteliSpark client, Wicked Device LLC, has been awarded a phase I grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Their project, “a collaborative data collection and analysis for inquiry-based experiential learning for health sciences related STEM education” will focus on developing an engaging, flexible, low-cost and inclusive cloud-based data sharing system for schools, fostering scientific discovery and literacy.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) job opportunity market is expected to grow 8.9% from 2014-2024 and offer wages 29% higher than compared the non-STEM job market, which is only expected to grow 6.4% according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. However, STEM education has failed in keeping up with this growth. It was found that in 2016 of the 64% U.S. high school students that underwent American College Testing, only 20% scored the benchmark or higher for STEM scores. Along with this, an even considerably lower rate was determined for those students in underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups. The lack of racial/ethnic diversity feeds directly into higher education as well.

Wicked Device’s project will address the need to provide educational opportunities to enhance STEM literacy, with a goal of increasing the likelihood that students of diverse backgrounds will pursue scientific careers. Wicked Device will use their innovation of a shared, cloud-based data collection and analysis platform for collaborative STEM and big data research and education, and adapt it to experiential learning opportunities in health sciences that use survey collection data. The result of this approach will allow for Wicked Device to create a fuller, real time, highly collaborative and highly engaging scientific experience that aligns with how scientific research is conducted in the real world. The technology will allow users/students to collaborate on a global multi-school network, developing innovative experiments and share findings tailored to their personal interests in health sciences.

DexMat, Inc. wins NASA grant

InteliSpark client, DexMat Inc. has been awarded an SBIR Phase I grant from NASA for their project “Robust Lightweight CNT Wiring for Space Systems”. DexMAt has addressed the NASA need for a way of effectively shielding sensitive electronic equipment form electromagnetic interference (EMI) without adding significant weight to space flight vehicles and satellites. With this grant, they will be able to continue their efforts towards developing a novel and highly conductive Carbon nanotube (CNT) electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield product. CNTs are becoming a more popular solution for reducing the weight of the spacecraft, and further reducing the amount of fuel needed to achieve orbit. These CNTs offer 6 times higher strength, 6 times lower density, and at least 25 times higher flexure tolerance than the traditional copper wires used.

During this Phase I project, DexMat will use their CNT yarn to develop a CNT shielding braid that will have the potential to increase the mechanical strength of CNT tape used as a primary EMI shield. They will enhance the potential by producing these braids of different thicknesses and area coverage to augment performance and product appeal of CNT tapes. Through this project, they will also begin conducting accelerated aging tests to determine the impact on mechanical strength of shields made with CNT tapes, CNT yarn braids, and hybrid CNT tape/braid combinations.

PK Biosciences Corporation awarded grant from NIH

InteliSpark client, PK Biosciences Corporation has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) for their project “Development of novel metformin analog for treatment of Parkinson’s Disease”. Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects more than a million Americans. Patients suffer from severe neurological deficits which become incapacitating within 10-20 years of diagnosis. Current treatments fall short in that they fail to stop the progression of the disease, rather, the existing PD treatments focus on alleviating motor symptoms by compensating for neurochemical deficits.  The lack of effective neuroprotective drugs is primarily attributed to a limited understanding of the mechanisms underlying the degeneration of the nigral dopaminergic system. Furthermore, although mitochondrial dysfunction is recognized as the overriding pathophysiological hallmark of PD, no effective treatment options are available to improve mitochondrial function.

Metformin (Met) is an FDA-approved anti-diabetic drug with a remarkable safety profile. This drug was recently found to influence metabolic and cellular processes associated with aging and the development of neurodegenerative disease. However, the usage of Met as a mitochondria-targeting therapeutic is limited by its chemical properties. PK Biosciences found a way to enhance the chemical properties by increasing the mitochondrial concentration of Met from 100 to 100-fold by attaching a lipophilic cation, triphenyl phosphonium (TPP+). The newfound compound, a mitochondria-targeted metformin called MitoMet, is seen as a promising candidate for a drug development program, focusing on generating treatments for aging-related disorders and diseases attributed to mitochondrial dysfunction.

PK Biosciences has been able to study MitoMet and found two exciting properties of the compound; it is brain bioavailable, and leads to substantially higher mitochondrial biogenesis than unmodified Met in cell culture and animal model studies. Therefore, with this grant PK Biosciences will be able to further their studies of MitoMet, and determine its beneficial ability for treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Advanced Cytometry Instrumentation Systems, LLC awarded NIH Grant

InteliSpark client, Advanced Cytometry Instrumentation Systems LLC has been awarded a Phase I grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for their project, “novel optical dental imaging technology utilizing targeted upconversion nanoparticles for noninvasive detection of dental caries”. ACIS’ goal is to develop a novel optical dental imaging technology that utilized targeted upconversion nanoparticles for noninvasive detection of dental caries and assess its ability to improve the limit of detection (sensitivity) of dental caries and the specificity (decrease false positive detection rates), compared to currently technology. Dental caries is noted as the most prevalent chronic disease worldwide, affecting almost 100% of adults and 60-90% school-aged children. Current technology and techniques related to dental caries have been found to produce high false-positive detection rates. 

Upconversion materials are excited with nonvisible 980 nm light which has deep tissue penetration and emit light in the visible region. Using this process, ACIS will be able to greatly reduce background autofluorescence of biological samples, resulting in high signal to noise rations to enhance the sensitivity of detection. With this grant, ACIS will be able to address their dual-aim proposal by first assessing the limit of dental caries detection using a peptide-targeted UCNP that adheres to hydroxyapatite in extracted human tooth specimen, and then assess the limit of dental caries detection of a peptide-targeted UCNP that adheres to S. Mutans in cultured bacteria and extracted tooth specimen with carries. ACIS also plans to move forward to a Phase II grant application, in efforts to develop a device, acute and chronic in vivo toxicity of the UCNPs, and in vivo studies for detection of dental caries in animals pertinent for translation to human trials.

N8 Medical, Inc. wins Grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

InteliSpark client, N8 Medical Inc. has been awarded a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for their Phase I SBIR project “a 3D printed resorbable antimicrobial envelope to prevent infection of implanted cardiac devices”. With this award, N8 Medical will be focusing on using 3D printing to fabricate a biodegradable polycaprolactone (PCL)-based antimicrobial envelope to be fitted outside of cardiac rhythm devices, and ultimately prevent infections after surgical implantation.

Surgery to deliver cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as infection. Untreated device-related infection has been seen to cause mortality rates as high as 66%. There is currently only one antibiotic-impregnated mesh that has been FDA-approved for placement in surgical incisions to reduce infections associated with the implantation of CIEDs. Yet, studies have shown that staphylococci bacteria, which are commonly found in VIED infections, has built resistance to the combination antibiotics used in the mesh.  Also, the antibacterials can promote the growth of fungi, which is a source of rare but highly fatal CIED infections. The bulky implantable mesh envelopes that are currently used increase the surgical pocket size, which not only restricts a patient from physical activities, it also increases the chance of infection. Moreover, the mesh contributes to space constraints of the surgical pocket, which reduces the size of CEIDs that can be emplaced; even though the majority of patients would prefer larger devices that last longer.

N8 Medical has seen a need to address this issue, in efforts of increasing the length of time between device retrievals and reimplantations, improving the allover quality of life for patients, while directly decreasing the risk of infections associated with surgery. To do so, they plan to use 3D printing to develop a biodegradable polycaprolactone (PCL)-based antimicrobial envelop for the outside of cardiac rhythm devices after surgical implantation. Their idea is that a slow degradation (hydrolysis) of the PCL envelope will gradually release a novel antimicrobial compound (CSA-131, a ceragenin) for antimicrobial and anti-fungal activity. N8 Medical’s device will be the first of its kind in preventing fungal colonization of cardiac devices, while still providing superior and longer lasting inhibition of bacterial growth. By using 3D printing techniques, they will also be able to produce more customized devices which will minimize surgical pocket space constraints. With the help of this award, N8 Medicals will be able to move forward to their next efforts, to compose the antibiotic-loaded filament, demonstrate, and evaluate its effectiveness.

Excelsior Biofilms, LLC wins NIH Grant

InteliSpark client Excelsior Biofilms has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), for their project titled “Incorporation of a biofilm dispersion autoinducer into an antimicrobial ointment for the treatment of topical wounds”. Their project will directly address critical or high priority pathogens such as Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus which were recently identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) for which new antibiotics or antimicrobial treatments urgently needed.

Excelsior Biofilms will overcome this by using a biofilm dispersal signal as an adjunctive to conventional antimicrobial therapies. Their previous studies have shown that P. aeruginosa produces a quorum sensing molecule, cis-2-decenoic acids (cis-DA), that is responsible for auto-induction of the native dispersion response in biofilm bacteria. This signaling molecule has been shown to create a change in the physiologic of the bacteria, causing them to disaggregate from a biofilm and alter their physiology, rendering them to more susceptible to antibiotics. Furthermore, the cis-DA has been shown to induce biofilm dispersion in a wide range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria as well as fungi.

In Excelsior Biofilm’s project, they propose to determine the degree to which cis-DA can improve the anti-biofilm activity of a petroleum jelly-based ointment with embedded antimicrobials. After determining the effectiveness and the non-toxicity to human keratinocytes, they will go onto test the effect in vitro models of wounded and infected skins. Ultimately, their project will improve current treatment and prevention strategies against biofilm infections in topical wounds.

Sep-All wins Department of Energy Grant

InteliSpark client Sep-All, LLC has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for their project “Low-heat process for the production of high-value micro- and nano- materials form metallic wastes”.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has stated a need for “innovative approaches (…) that use low/no direct application of heat to transform materials into higher value products.” Sep-All has addressed this need by providing a novel low-heat technology platform allowing for the extraction of metallic elements from waste streams, while adding a value to the materials through their conversion into high-value micro- and nano-materials. Their innovative technology is a platform based on chemo-mechanical stresses and interface metastability at the microscale, to drive a controlled separation of mixed sources into high-value mirco- and nano-materials of purified compounds, such as oxides and acetates, without the need to utilize high temperatures.

With this grant, Sep-All plans to extend its product line into the fabrication of ‘critical materials’, which are seen as materials with high supply risks and high environmental impact during ore processing. The U.S. currently has an interdependency on other countries for the supply of critical materials; for example the U.S. relies on China for greater than 90% of their supply of Neodymium and Indium. Sep-All sees the potential of their novel technological approach and their innovative platform to have the potential to decrease U.S. interdependency on other countries for the supply stream of critical materials.

Shasqi, Inc. awarded NIH Grant

InteliSpark client, Shasqi Inc., has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institution of Health, for their project “Material Guided Drug Delivery for Pediatric Tumors using an Implantable Biomaterial and Bio-orthogonal Chemistry”. With their award, Shasqi will be focusing its efforts of drug delivery technology toward pediatric sarcomas. Typical treatment for sarcomas include intense chemotherapies, then surgery, leading to severe effects which makes it extremely difficult on pediatric patients. 

Of the new cancer drugs approved by the FDA, between 1948 and 2002, 30 out of the 120 (25%) can be used in children. Shasqi found a need to address this and to better develop chemotherapies, with a focus on doxorubicin and pediatric patients. Shasqi is developing patent-pending technology, using an implantable biomaterial and prodrugs of chemotherapies to better improve the efficiency and therapeutic index of treatment. Their technology is based on a bio-orthogonal ‘catch and release’ reaction between the implanted biomaterial and prodrug. Their work will increase the success of tumor resection and ultimately increase the survival of pediatric sarcoma patients. With the grant from the NIH, Shasqi will be able to advance their efforts towards this goal.

Shasqi, Inc. wins NIH SBIR Phase I Grant

InteliSpark client Shasqi, Inc. has been awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I Grant from the National Cancer Institute, for their project “Material Guided Drug Delivery for Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis using an Implantable Biomaterial and Bio-Orthogonal Chemistry”. Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS) is a condition that affects approximately 1.8 people per million (about 600 people) in the U.S. each year. It is a chronic, progressive neoplastic process that causes synovial lining of a joint, bursa, or tendon sheath to thicken and overgrow in an aggressive manner with a very low risky of metastasis. PVNS is most commonly seen in people 20-45 years old and can be focal or diffuse. There is a 40-50% chance of local reoccurrence in the diffuse form of PVNS, with traditional treatment strategies. Treatment for PVNS is a challenge due to the benign yet aggressive behavior of the condition

Shasqi will address this issue with their development of drug delivery technology, designed to improve the therapeutic index of drugs. This technology consists of a biocompatible biomaterial, and a prodrug (an inactivated drug), both of which contain biorthogonal reagents which allow for them to react only with each other. The biomaterial will be physically placed at the desired location in the body, then the prodrug will be injected into the blood stream when needed. This will allow for reaction only amongst the two, and ultimately the active drug will be released from the gel to perform its function on the designated part of the body. Shasqi envisions this advancement in drug technology to be applicable to PVNS treatment.

Shasqi’s system will effectively turn systemic drugs into localized medicines. For the treatment of PVNS patients, the placement of this technology would be to occur following surgical resection. The surgeon would be able to place the biomaterial around the surgical cavity and treat the patient with a prodrug of a CSF1R inhibitor to secure clean margins. Additional gel injections can be given at sites of unresectable tumors. Additionally, the technology can be used as a neoadjuvant treatment to improve the outcome of subsequent surgical resection, in the case that tumors are too large to be removed or would require invasive surgical intervention.