Harrison-based biotech firm Sapience Therapeutics, Inc. recently announced it received a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I grant, bestowed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to help develop a novel new approach to combatting coronaviruses like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
SBIR grants gives small businesses the ability to conduct federal research and development for potential commercialization. The heavily competitive program accepts applications from nonprofit universities, research organizations, and federally funded R&D centers throughout the United States. The local firm will receive $299,860 in funding.
A pelham native, Sapience President, CEO, and founder Barry Kappel established the company in 2016 with the goal of “un-met-need oncology,” as we reported that same year.
To date, Sapience’s innovative research focused on the discovery and development of peptide-based treatments for more extreme and currently untreatable forms of cancer, finding drugs that block protein interactions within cancer cells. Now, this same burgeoning field of peptide therapeutics will be adapted to treatment of coronaviruses.
Jim Rotolo, PhD., VP of Translational Pharmacology and Head of Research of Sapience Therapeutics, says, “We are very excited to have received this grant from the NIAID/NIH, which will allow us to investigate the potential of our platform for targeting SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) while remaining focused on our goal to address difficult to treat cancer indications.”
A similar peptide inhibitor, “Fuzeon,” has already received FDA approval for HIV treatment. “If successful, peptides may provide a more cost-effective and novel treatment option for newly diagnosed cases of coronaviruses,” says Gene Merutka PhD., VP, CMC.