Wei-Chiao Huang, PhD, director of vaccine development for UB spinoff POP Biotechnologies Inc., is principal investigator on the firm’s new SBIR project. 

Four UB Life Sciences Spinoffs Receive New NIH Funding

Published January 12, 2022

POP Biotechnologies Inc. (POP BIO) is one four startups founded or co-founded by University at Buffalo researchers that has received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards from the National Institutes of Health to advance research on potential vaccines or therapies for a variety of diseases.

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POP BIO has received $599,982 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a liposome-based COVID-19 vaccine that could be freeze-dried and then stored at room temperature, eliminating logistical challenges that can impact vaccination campaigns, such as needs for ultra-cold storage.

The company was founded by Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, SUNY Empire Innovation associate professor of biomedical engineering, and UB School of Law alumnus Jonathan Smyth.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering is a joint program between the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“For startups and small businesses like POP BIO, which is a company implementing inventive and beneficial concepts, funding like this is important,” says Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. 

“In the United States, NIH small business programs are one of the biggest sources of early-stage capital for the life sciences. This NIH funding will help enable Dr. Lovell and his fellow scientists continue to translate their research into reality,” she adds.

Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes Drugs Being Developed

The other startups which received NIH funding are:

  • Immune Modulatory Therapies LLC, founded by Richard Bankert, VMD, PhD, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology; Sathy Balu-Iyer, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences; and Robert Chau, PhD, research scientist in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in UB’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

    Immune Modulatory Therapies has received $293,178 from the National Cancer Institute to study the safety and efficacy of ExoBlock, a cancer-fighting drug that’s under development to help immune cells called T cells kill tumors.
  • Abceutics Inc., founded by UB Professor Joseph P. Balthasar, PhD; David and Jane Chu Endowed Chair in Drug Discovery and Development in UB’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Brandon Bordeau, PhD, research assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences; and Toan Duc Nguyen, a trainee in the doctoral program in pharmaceutical sciences; and by Larry C. Wienkers, PhD, who has past experience as vice president and global head of pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism at Amgen Inc. 

    Abceutics has received $168,038 from the National Cancer Institute to  develop the first in a series of new drugs, called payload-binding selectivity enhancers, that aim to improve the safety and efficacy of certain cancer drugs.
  • Transira Therapeutics LLC, founded by Qing Lin, PhD, professor of chemistry. 

    Transira Therapeutics has received $300,000 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to develop an oral pill for Type 2 diabetes, with the aim of helping patients control their blood sugar while facilitating weight loss.

UB Provides Support to Faculty Entrepreneurs

All four startups have received technology transfer assistance and other support through UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships (BEP) team. Faculty founders of three — Abceutics, Immune Modulatory Therapies and Transira Therapeutics — received awards from the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund administered by BEP.

The university provides a range of support to faculty entrepreneurs, including seed funding, help with patent and grant applications, opportunities to locate in incubators, and assistance in identifying experienced entrepreneurs and business teams who can help move innovations to market.

“UB researchers pioneer life-changing innovations every day,” says Christina Orsi, UB associate vice president for economic development. “By supporting them with guidance, funds and space, and partnering them with business experts to serve as company leaders, we can advance those innovations into the world to really change lives.”