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Fauna Bio Awarded Grant from National Institute of Health to Find New Treatments for Human Diseases by Studying the Genes of Animals: Novel target discovery platform has already uncovered biomarkers key to heart health and recovery from cardiac events

Awardee Story Fauna Bio Awarded Grant from National Institute of Health to Find New Treatments for Human Diseases by Studying the Genes of Animals: Novel target discovery platform has already uncovered biomarkers key to heart health and recovery from cardiac events
Date: Apr 04, 2021
Author: Company
Source: Company Data ( click here to go to the source)

BERKELEY, Calif., March 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Fauna Bio today announced it has received a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to investigate new ways to treat human diseases by studying the genetic makeup of other animals. The R41 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leverages comparative genomics to identify new targets in the drug discovery process. Fauna Bio's proprietary platform has already identified four novel genes key to heart protection-- and recovery from cardiac events including heart attacks and strokes-- using only data from hibernators. This grant also supports a partnership between Fauna Bio and the Monarch Initiative, an integrative data and analytic platform identifying shared traits across species with the goal of identifying better animal models of human diseases. This funding will aid the integration of disease traits from emerging models, such as hibernators, with existing model species databases.

Current drug discovery efforts -- for conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's to obesity and heart disease -- based on human data struggle to find new, unique, and potentially more successful targets. NHGRI supported efforts to successfully sequence the entire human genome in 2003, but this has still left many unanswered questions and many diseases with no good therapies.

"One of the biggest yet simplest questions we continue to be asked as a company is, 'What does the DNA of animals have to do with humans?' But given that we share 90 percent of our genes with other mammals, it is important to look outside our own species to find new answers for the betterment of human health," said Ashley Zehnder, DVM, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Fauna Bio. "This grant from the NIH means that they see a direct link between the genes of humans and animals, and its value for developing meaningful therapeutics for a variety of complex diseases currently with no viable treatment options."

Fauna Bio was founded by Drs. Zehnder, Linda Goodman and Katharine Grabek, who all met while working in the Bustamante Lab at Stanford University. Prior to starting Fauna Bio, Goodman's work focused on comparative genomics, while Grabek's research focused on the functional genomics of the 13-lined ground squirrel with its implications for human health. Continuing with this model, the team has sequenced a whole genome, RNA, protein, and metabolomics as well as epigenetic sequencing from its internal biobank. They are also integrating publicly available data across a broad range of species to prioritize therapeutic targets. To date, Fauna Bio has identified two compounds that may be effective in reducing damage after a heart attack.

Dr. Melissa Haendel and Dr. Monica Munoz-Torres from the Monarch Initiative are also key participants in this award.

"Studying the new data from 13-lined ground squirrels and looking at computable anatomy and phenotypes in addition to genomics will fill a crucial gap in translation from basic research to medicine," said Dr. Haendel. "This collaboration with FaunaBio leverages the Monarch's generalizable model for integrating data in favor of revealing these mechanisms and aiding discovery, and we hope researchers will be able to use this knowledge to develop new therapies for patients, which is ultimately what we're all striving to achieve."

Dr. Goodman was listed as co-author of a study published on November 11, 2020 issue of Nature as part of an international team of researchers with an effort called the Zoonomia Project. The study, which was led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Uppsala University, analyzed and compared the whole genomes of more than 80 percent of all mammalian families, spanning almost 110 million years of evolution. The dataset, aimed at advancing human health research, includes genomes from more than 120 species that were not previously sequenced and captures mammalian diversity at an unprecedented scale. Fauna Bio is now focused on using the data not only to better understand which mutations contribute to human disease but also to pinpoint genes involved in animal disease resistance.

Each February, the U.S. commemorates, "American Heart Month." Fauna Bio has detailed some of their new findings on how we might learn more about human survival from heart attacks and stroke by looking to hibernating animals. To read this, and for more information on Fauna Bio, please visit www.faunabio.com

About Fauna Bio
Fauna Bio is unlocking the secrets of animal genomics to improve human health. With the world's largest biobank of animals with specialized adaptations, cutting-edge computational and genomics tools, and an expert multidisciplinary team, Fauna Bio is changing the paradigm of drug discovery and identifying novel drug targets across a broad range of clinical applications, from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer's.

SOURCE Fauna Bio
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