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Kalamazoo Pharma Firm Gets $3 Million From NIH

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Kalamazoo-based NanoVir LLC said Tuesday it had received a three-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for its research on new antiviral drugs.

The candidate drugs are “broad spectrum,” designed to fight multiple strains of high-risk human papillomaviruses, or HPVs, the viral cause of essentially all cervical cancer.

The grant is titled “Preclinical Development of Broad Spectrum Antiviral Compounds to Treat Human Papillomavirus.” 

HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, and is also the most prevalent sexually-transmitted virus in the world. Cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer among lethal cancers that affects women worldwide. Each year, nearly 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States alone.

The principal investigator on the grant is Chris Fisher of NanoVir, while the lead chemist on the project is James Bashkin, co-founder of NanoVir and Research Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. 
The $3 million award means that NanoVir has raised over $9.5 million in grants since 2004 when it first started at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center. 

“Some years were lean and difficult to survive as a company, but we have always kept our focus on advancing our lead compounds through pre-clinical studies and into the clinic,” Fisher said. “In the current climate of diminishing venture capital, our ability to raise money through grants from the NIH has been critical to our ability to survive and flourish. These grants are highly competitive, with the major criteria for funding being the significance of the science, its potential impact on human health and the quality of the research team — all areas in which we excel.”

Added Ron Kitchens, CEO of the Kalamazoo economic development agency Southwest Michigan First: “The company should be proud of its continued recognition for its outstanding research by the NIH. NanoVir is an integral player in the West Michigan life science community.”

And Rob DeWit, CEO of the SMIC, said: “As we know from everything we have read about and experienced in so-called ‘Big Pharma,’ the task of discovering and then developing new therapeutic agents is a very high risk business. Increasingly, the large pharmaceutical companies are relying on the scientific knowledge and individual motivation of scientists, like those at NanoVir to identify and to provide the next best therapeutic agents for unmet or under-served medical conditions. It is fantastic that the NIH has recognized the potential of the work being done at NanoVir.”

In addition, NanoVir has also benefitted from support from a variety of sources, such as Western Michigan University’s Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which has funded programs to aid and support the submission of competitive grants. 

NanoVir is a drug discovery company dedicated to finding treatments for HPV, a primary cause of both abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. NanoVir focuses on studying DNA-targeted therapies aimed to treat high-risk HPV infection before it can progress to cancer. The company is funded by the National Institutes of Health, under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

NanoVir’s Kalamazoo site at the SMIC of Western Michigan University conducts cell-biology and virology studies, while its colleagues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis site carry out the related chemistry. The firm is currently concentrating on a topical treatment that could eliminate HPV infections. 

More at www.nanovirpharm.com.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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