Flu Antibodies Developed at UChicago Advance with Fast-Track Grant
Antibodies developed at the University of Chicago, which target a wide variety of influenza strains, are being commercialized by Celdara Medical.
The antibodies were patented by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and licensed in 2023 to Celdara Medical, a biotech company that builds academic and early-stage innovations into high-potential medical companies by identifying discoveries and moving them toward the market.
Now, Celdara Medical has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fast-Track grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH Fast-Track application process expedites award decisions and funding for “scientifically meritorious projects that have a high potential for commercialization.”
The award supports the ongoing development of CM-IAV1, a promising therapeutic antibody designed to treat high-priority influenzas that have the potential to cause pandemics. The project builds on groundbreaking research performed at the University of Chicago by Patrick Wilson, who is now a professor at Weill Cornell Medical School.
Wilson’s research is focused on the immune system, specifically B cells, which are responsible for producing antibodies. This includes using technology to isolate monoclonal antibodies – unique antibodies derived from single human B cells that can be mass-produced in laboratories to treat many diseases.
“Monoclonal antibody therapy against infectious diseases such as influenza has been of interest for many years,” said Wilson, who noted that during the COVID pandemic some of the first widespread treatment options were monoclonal antibodies, such as the Regeneron cocktail.
Wilson at the time led a team that isolated antibodies specific to the spike and internal proteins of SARS-CoV-2 from a unique cohort of COVID-19 patients. The patented product is a panel of more than 100 antibodies that bind various SARS-CoV-2 proteins.
As Wilson explained, the COVID pandemic additionally “revealed the risk of developing antibody drugs as the various antibody-based therapeutics lost effectiveness when the coronavirus mutated.” Also an evolving virus, a “key constraint” to developing a successful antibody-based therapeutic is finding antibodies that target mutation-resistant epitopes on the virus.
“The antibodies licensed to Celdara are reactive with highly conserved and mutationally stable epitopes, and so show promise if developed into therapeutics. The conservation of the epitopes also means that the antibodies can target a wider variety of influenza strains,” said Wilson, who will continue to provide scientific guidance on the project.
“Given the impact and lessons from COVID-19, the urgent need for effective treatments for high-risk pandemic influenzas cannot be overstated,” said Celdara Medical cofounder and CEO Jake Reder. “We are grateful to Prof. Wilson and the University of Chicago for their partnership, and to NIAID for their support, which validates our innovative approach in tackling infectious diseases. This funding will facilitate the continued development of CM-IAV1, bringing us closer to our goal of combatting high-risk pandemic influenzas.”
// The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation manages the University of Chicago’s technology portfolio.
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