News Article

UW, UTMB and Kineta Inc. receive $8.1M biodefense antiviral drug development
Date: May 08, 2012
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Featured firm in this article: Kineta Inc of Seattle, WA

In collaboration with the University of Washington and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Seattle-based biotech company, Kineta Inc. has received an $8.1 million biodefense grant to develop new drugs to treat Ebola, plague, Japanese encephalitis, and other lethal pathogens.

The funding to advance next generation antiviral therapeutics comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

"This award enables us to push further and work with more high priority viruses," said UW professor Dr. Michael Gale Jr., principal investigator of the grant. "These diseases are major concerns of the United States government for their risk of sparking a pandemic and their potential use as bioterrorist weapons. By utilizing an innate immune pathway we hope to develop better drugs that won't be out-smarted by viral mutation."

Gale, a UW professor of immunology, adjunct professor of global health and microbiology, and affiliate investigator of the Clinical Research Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is director of the NIH-supported Center for The Study of Immune Mechanisms of Virus Control at UW. His research is focused on understanding innate immunity to virus infection, and the intracellular immune processes and virus-host interactions that control viral replication and infection outcome.

The project leverages discoveries from ongoing collaborations between Kineta and UW to develop novel antiviral drugs and vaccine boosters called adjuvants. Dr. Michael Katze, a UW professor of microbiology and associate director of the Washington Regional Primate Research Center, will provide bioinformatics and systems biology genomics analysis. Dr. Shawn P. Iadonato, chief scientific officer at Kineta, will lead drug optimization and in-vivo pharmacology work. Dr. Thomas Geisbert, of University of Texas Medical Branch and the Galveston National Lab, a leader in biodefense research, will oversee research on bio-safety level 4 viral agents, including Ebola and Nipah viruses.

"A primary mission of the Galveston National Lab is to engage our unique resources in translating research ideas into products aimed at combating emerging infectious diseases," Geisbert said. "This collaboration between Kineta, the University of Washington and the GNL leverages expertise and resources from academia and industry to promote the advancement of countermeasures against Ebola and Nipah viruses in particular, two high priority public health and biodefense threat agents."

This new infusion of support will help Kineta move two small molecule drug candidates closer to first in human clinical trials. The program, Agonists of the Retinoic Acid Inducible Gene I Innate Immune Pathway focuses on high need viruses including: influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile virus and respiratory syncytial virus. RIG-I is a molecular "on/off" switch that triggers the human body's innate immune system to eliminate infection.

This grant will increase the number of disease targets to include less commonly known henipaviruses and filoviruses such as Yellow fever, Ebola, Marburg, plague and others. Currently, treatment of all viral diseases is severely limited by a lack of effective drugs.