BioInnovation Institute recently closed a call for the PreSeed program for start-ups and academic projects in therapeutics, health tech and bio-industrials. The accepted teams will be announced in September 2020.
Earlier this year, three teams were granted DKK 3.5M in the program through Novo Seeds to pursue their project in collaboration with BioInnovation Institute.
A team from Aarhus University led by Christian Holm, Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedicine, is part of this batch. They are working on an early-stage project targeting patients with serious inflammatory diseases such as SAVI, Lupus and Aicardi-Goutieres. On the team is also Francisco Schopfer, Associate Professor and Vice-Chair of Biotechnology Development at Pittsburgh University and Post Doc Anne Louise Hansen from Aarhus University.
What are you developing?
Our technology has the potential to develop into a therapy for patients with inflammatory diseases involving STING. STING is a relatively newfound molecule that exists in most cells and it seems to be part of the problem in patients with serious inflammatory diseases. Our best evidence comes from patients with SAVI – a disease that affects young children’s skin and lungs. In the case of SAVI, gain-of-function mutations in STING lead to an overly active immune system, which causes illness. The involvement of STING in inflammatory diseases has led to a race to find inhibitors that can block an overly actively STING.
What have you discovered?
Our technology is built on Anne Louise Hansen’s Ph.D. project. She saw how the molecular weight of the STING protein changed when certain lipid types were added to cells. Through this observation, we discovered that the lipids bind to and block the activity of STING. Our tests have shown that it is also the case in cells taken from SAVI patients, so we applied for the PreSeed grant to develop the lipids into a form that can be used for treatment. Currently, no known drugs target STING and SAVI patients don’t respond well to any other available treatment.
What are your main challenges at this stage?
Our current focus is to optimize the lipid to improve efficacy and to find a relevant mouse model that we can use for in vivo studies.
Meet the two other start-ups from the first bath of PreSeed projects:
Bio-material project from Aarhus University joins BII
Swedish project funded with DKK 3.5M in PreSeed program