Texas A&M spin-off, Pulmotect, Inc., receives $3 million NIH grant to fund infection prevention drug trials

May 26, 2015

Clinical-stage biotechnology company Pulmotect, Inc., has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of PUL-042, an inhaled therapeutic designed to prevent and treat respiratory infections in cancer patients with compromised immune systems. The three-year NIH grant is the sixth award for Pulmotect under the NIH’s rigorous Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and it follows a $7.1 million matching award from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas in 2012.

Pulmotect’s promising technology, developed by researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, displays an effective defense against a wide range of lethal inhaled pathogens by stimulating the lungs’ innate immune system.

“The lungs are the point of entry for many viruses and bacteria. Our multi-institutional research team hypothesized that activating the innate immune defense of the lungs might provide effective protection against a wide range of deadly pathogens,” said Magnus Höök, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston’s Texas Medical Center and co-founder of Pulmotect, Inc.

Pulmotect president and co-founder Brenton Scott, Ph.D., said, “With the successful results of our Phase 1 study, we are really pleased to be moving into these next stages of development. Our priority and focus has always been to show the effectiveness of this drug in helping those most at risk for developing potentially deadly respiratory infections.”

The Phase 1b/2a clinical studies are expected to begin in late 2015 at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center assessing the tolerability of the drug in leukemia and stem-cell transplant patients who are susceptible to developing pneumonia, often a consequence of cancer treatments.

Backed by $15 million in grant and equity funding to date, the company is also developing additional applications of PUL-042, including to combat inhaled emerging pathogens, to prevent and treat seasonal and pandemic influenza, and to prevent other respiratory infections, such as those commonly causing complications for people suffering from asthma, COPD and Cystic Fibrosis.

“Pulmotect is a great example of the kind of new company spin-out that shows great potential to impact the world. The funding received will help take this technology to the next critical stage in its development,” said Brett Cornwell, associate vice chancellor for commercialization with Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization.

— Debbie Field

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