CWRU spinoff receives $400,000 NIH award, earns perfect score on research proposal

Researchers at Affinity Therapeutics, a Case Western Reserve University spinoff whose technology allows the release of drug therapy to be customized and better controlled, recently received another round of federal funding, through the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award.

Affinity Therapeutics received a SHIFT (Small Businesses Helping Investigators to Fuel the Translation of Scientific Discoveries) award, which will provide the biotech company $400,000 over two years. Sean Zuckerman, senior research scientist at Affinity and American Heart Association Fellow, is the primary investigator on this award.

This marks the second time Affinity Therapeutics has earned a SHIFT award, and the third time since 2011 that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or National Science Foundation has funded the company’s work.

“This funding represents the hard work and dedication of the entire Affinity team and positions Affinity to become a serious player in the cardiovascular medical device space,” said Julius Korley, chief scientific officer and president.

Since its founding in 2010, Affinity Therapeutics and its research team have used “affinity-based technology” to regulate the rate at which a drug is released from an implant in a patient’s body. In other words, Affinity’s proprietary controlled-release, tunable technology platform allows drugs to be released in the body to fit an individual’s needs—whether within a matter of days or several months.

So far, Affinity’s most successful application has been in coating hernia mesh with antibiotics. But the company expects its technology to apply to numerous medical fields, including regenerative medicine, oncology, cardiology and advanced wound therapy.

In addition to continued financial support, the NIH also recognized Affinity Therapeutics with a perfect score on its most recent SHIFT SBIR proposal, titled “Affinity-based delivery of Sirolimus for prevention of AV graft failure.” As outlined in their proposal, researchers at Affinity Therapeutics hope to use the extended release of the transplant anti-rejection drug sirolimus to prevent restenosis, or the re-narrowing of a blood vessel from scar tissue, the most common mode of failure of arteriovenous grafts.

The SHIFT SBIR initiative aims to grow translational research, especially done within academia. The program requires an investigator to be primarily employed by a United States research institution. This connection helps facilitate licensing, promote collaboration with others in the field and gain better access to resources a college or university can provide.

Korley and Horst von Recum founded Affinity Therapeutics to commercialize technology developed in the von Recum laboratory at Case Western Reserve. Korley is associate director of the Coulter-Case Translational Research Partnership at Case Western Reserve. Von Recum is an associate professor at CWRU and serves as director of the Center for Delivery of Molecules and Cells, which focuses on the creation of novel polymeric platforms for drug delivery and tissue engineering.

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