East River BioSolutions has received a $224,566 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance the development of laboratory tools that can aid in the study of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Development of effective therapies for IPF has been stalled by a lack of predictive models (i.e., a cell model in its native environment) of the disease. As a result, there is a significant need for biologically relevant experimental tools in order to conduct in vitro experiments (experiments that are conducted outside a living organism) such as cell culture.
To help address this issue, East River Bio will use the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I grant to develop a lung fibrosis-specific cell culture substrate that will allow researchers to build a more biologically relevant cell model of IPF.
NIH awards SBIR Phase 1 grants to small businesses for projects aimed at proving the scientific or technical feasibility of an approach or concept.
East River Bio focuses on developing cell-specific compounds that allow cells to be cultured, or grown, in a native cell microenvironment that mimics the environment they would encounter in the body. The environment in which cell models are grown is very important to accurately assess how cells will respond to drugs and other molecules in a biological setting.
“Environment matters. Just as the cell microenvironment matters inside the body, it is also vital for the accuracy of results based on cells grown and studied outside the body,” Andrea Nye, president and CEO of East River Bio, said in a press release.
The goal of East River Bio is to collaborate with scientists and companies in need of predictive models by giving them access to an IPF-specific native tissue cell culture environment. This resource can help researchers develop improved in vitro models, animal models (in vivo), and eventually allow companies to succeed in their pursuit of drug discovery and better treatment options for IPF patients.
“The capacity to conduct more biologically faithful research will enable deeper scientific understanding by providing researchers with the ability to increase high-impact discoveries aimed at improving health outcomes,” Nye said.
“This grant award further confirms market demand for more accurate and predictive in vitro models while also providing external validation for the potential positive impact that our product is likely to have for scientists in need of native cell microenvironments for improved cell culture models,” she concluded.
Currently, there are only two U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies for IPF — Esbriet (pirfenidone, marketed by Genentech) and Ofev (nintedanib, marketed by Boehringer Ingelheim) — which, according to East River Bio, have shown limited ability to slow disease progression. The only curative treatment for IPF is a lung transplant.