Funded innovations ‘put New York state at forefront of infectious disease discovery and development while strengthening state's life science ecosystem’
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the second round of awardees for the $40 Million New York State Biodefense Commercialization Fund. The program was created to accelerate the development and commercialization of life science innovations that address serious infectious disease threats, including the coronavirus and its variants, while also creating jobs and encouraging continued growth across New York's expanding life science industry. Upon approval by the Empire State Development board of directors, seven grants will be awarded for a total grant commitment of $8,899,998.
"New York's commitment to combatting infectious disease threats is stronger than ever," Hochul said. "Programs like the Biodefense Commercialization Fund and the recently announced ‘Lab of the Future’ will spur innovative solutions for serious infectious diseases while building the strongest life science ecosystem in the nation."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "The Biodefense Commercialization Fund is already having an impact – facilitating the commercialization pathway for innovative research, adding jobs and investment funding, and attracting companies to the state. Additionally, startup companies that were awarded biodefense grants in the first application round are showing progress, having raised an additional $5.5 million and filed three patents in the first six months of the award."
Round two recommended awardees include:
Startup Companies (Funding of $6,900,000)
•AACT Inc. – $1,900,000: (Premkumar Reddy, Ph.D.) Development of Small Molecule Kinase Inhibitors as Anti-viral Therapies: AACT Inc. is focused on developing novel small molecule kinase inhibitors for viral replication, viral pathogenesis, and modulation of the host immune system. Funding from ESD will allow for advancement of clinical compounds against kinase targets that have been strongly implicated in the infection, life cycle, and transmission of infectious viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2.
•CastleVax Inc. – $4,000,000: (Michael Eagan, Ph.D.) Newcastle Disease Virus Vectored-vaccine Platform Ideally Suited to Address Viral Threats: CastleVax Inc. is a clinical stage company developing vaccines against existing and emerging viruses, using its Newcastle Disease Virus vaccine platform. It is advancing to phase 2 clinical evaluation of a next-generation, mucosally delivered COVID-19 booster vaccine with the potential to block breakthrough infection and transmission.
•TETmedical Inc. – $1,000,000: (Roy Cohen, Ph.D. Co-Investigators: David Fischell, Ph.D., and Alexander Travis, Ph.D.) Ultra-Rapid Point-of-Care Molecular Diagnostics for Identifying Viruses and their Variants Using Tethered Enzyme Technology: TETmedical Inc. is utilizing its novel Tethered Enzyme Technology (TET) to develop a multiplex assay for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, influenza, RSV and adenovirus. This novel biosensor platform harnesses the catalytic efficiency of enzymes immobilized on nanoparticles to enable highly sensitive, ultra-rapid (under five minutes), low-cost, and highly portable point-of-care diagnostics.
Academic Institutions (Funding of $1,999,998)
•The State University of New York Upstate Medical University – $500,000: (Adam Waickman, Ph.D.) Custom Designed IgA Monoclonal Antibodies for Treating Flavivirus Infection: Waickman and his team are developing a new class of monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of flaviviruses, which included dengue virus, Zika virus and Powassan virus. The group is utilizing a novel monoclonal antibody for the treatment of these infectious diseases that demonstrates the ability to neutralize the viruses while having no infection-enhancing side effects often associated with IgG-based antibodies targeting these pathogens.
•New York University Grossman School of Medicine – $499,998: (Jef Boeke, Ph.D.) A Platform for New Antibiotic Discovery: Boeke utilizes Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a chassis for its expression, optimization and diversification of promising molecules with a specific focus on production of tetracycline-based antibiotics. The lab's novel system for biosynthetic derivatization and the identification of molecules that evade resistance will enable the development of drugs that can be rapidly scaled for production.
•New York University – $500,000: (Kent Kirshenbaum, Ph.D.). A Biomimetic Strategy for Direct-Acting Antiviral Agents that Avert Drug Resistance: Kirshenbaum and his team are developing a first-in-class family of small molecule antiviral therapeutics with the capacity to mimic the function of the human innate immune system to directly destroy viral structures and render them non-infectious. The lab is working toward elucidating the mechanism of action and IND enabling studies.
•Columbia University Irving Medical Center and School of Engineering – $500,000: (Jingyue Ju, Ph.D.) Single Molecule Electronic Nanopore Detection of SARS-CoV-2 and Other Viruses of Pandemic Potential: Ju and his group are developing a novel diagnostic method utilizing an electronic single molecule approach that allows for rapid and direct detection of low-abundance viruses in environmental or human samples. The innovation will have broad applications across clinical and home care settings.
Initial grantees of the Biodefense Commercialization Fund were awarded approximately $15 million in April of 2022. The second round of recommended awardees brings total funding committed to $23,823,684. In this round, grants were awarded to three startup companies and four academic institutions, increasing the total number of awardees to 10 startups and 13 academic institutions.
Financial support is not the only way the fund helps to accelerate commercialization efforts. More than 40 mentors with deep expertise in entrepreneurship and in biopharmaceutical development and commercialization have been recruited to assist grantees in advancing their technologies toward commercialization. This customized guidance is invaluable in facilitating a successful path forward for both innovation development and company growth.
When approved, Biodefense Commercialization Fund grants will help bring to market infectious disease solutions, including diagnostics, therapeutics and other innovations that address or mitigate the spread of serious infectious diseases. A total of 106 applications were received for this cycle: 66 from startup companies and 40 from academic institutions.
The awarded projects are diverse in terms of their geographic location and focus and further support the state's economic development efforts of leveraging its programs toward company and job creation/retention and unlocking additional capital; awards to the startup companies in this round are leveraging existing grant and investment funds totaling $4 million. In addition, companies awarded a Biodefense Commercialization Fund grant must commit to remaining in New York state and continuously conduct business for a minimum of three years following completion of the grant.
Eligibility and Funding
Startup companies developing promising diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, and other innovations to prevent, treat or mitigate serious infectious disease threats were invited to apply for grants of up to $4 million. New York's academic research institutions also were able to apply for grants of up to $500,000 to help fast track advanced intellectual property in life sciences. Click here for more information about the Biodefense Commercialization Fund.
New York State's $620 Million Life Science Initiative
New York state enacted a $620 million initiative to spur the growth of a world-class life sciences research cluster in New York, as well as expand the state's ability to commercialize this research and grow the economy. This multi-faceted initiative includes $320 million for strategic programs that attract new life science technologies to the state, promote critical public and private sector investment in emerging life science fields and create and expand life science-related businesses and employment throughout New York.
Hochul’s team said, “The life sciences sector encompasses the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, and life systems technologies, and includes organizations and institutions that devote the majority of their efforts to the various stages of research, development, technology transfer and commercialization. Every day, firms in this sector are developing new medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs that have the potential to save lives, whether through new therapies or the early detection of diseases like cancer and neurological diseases. These firms are also making significant advancements in the realms of agriculture and environmental biotechnologies, helping create a cleaner and more sustainable future.
“By strengthening incentives, investing in facilities, and improving access to talent and expertise, New York will significantly increase its share of industry-funded research and development, support the commercialization of existing academic research, and usher in the next generation of advanced technologies. Beyond the advancements in science, this initiative will position New York as a magnet for emerging manufacturing-based enterprises, bolstering regional economies and creating thousands of jobs.”