Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Delaware have been awarded funding and support to accelerate their search for new medicines through an ongoing partnership between global biotechnology leader CSL Behring and the University City Science Center.
CSL Behring awarded Cecelia Yates, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, and Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis, Ph.D., from the University of Delaware, $250,000 each and an opportunity to work alongside the plasma-based biotech’s own experts in an effort to help transform their ideas into groundbreaking therapies to improve patients’ health.
CSL Behring, a global leader in treating rare and serious diseases which has its global operational headquarters in King of Prussia, PA, identified the medical researchers utilizing the Science Center’s, sourcing innovation framework for technology commercialization, support and infrastructure to efficiently evaluate technologies from multiple institutions.
“Congratulations Drs. Yates and Papoutsakis on being the first recipients of the CSL Behring-Science Center Research Acceleration Initiative,” said Bill Mezzanotte, MD, Executive Vice President, Head of Research and Development for CSL Behring. “This initiative is another example of the strength of our partnership with the Philadelphia-based University City Science Center as we look in our ‘backyard’ for innovative scientific advancements that have the potential to help rare disease patients lead full lives. Our growing R&D organization looks forward to working with Dr. Yates and Dr. Papoutsakis in the years ahead to advance their scientific research.”
“The Science Center couldn’t be more excited about facilitating the introduction between these talented investigators and CSL Behring,” says John Younger, MD, Vice President of Science & Technology at the Science Center. “Our network of universities, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies was built exactly for making these connections not just possible but easy. Supporting the development of new biologics, and new drug and gene delivery systems like those developed by Drs. Papoutsakis and Yates will continue to be an important focus of our team.”
The investigators and technologies selected in this inaugural round of the program include:
Cecelia Yates, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, for the use of FibroKine™ biomimetic peptides as potential targeted therapeutic treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.
Fibrotic diseases constitute a significant health problem in the US with the ability to impact any organ that is scarred from chronic disease, including the heart, lung, liver, arteries, and skin. In some cases, progressive and life-threatening diseases follow, but effective therapies don’t yet exist. In response, Dr. Yates has developed FibroKine™, a chemokine-based class of biomimetic peptides that are potential therapeutic agents for the targeted treatment of tissue fibrosis. Support from CSL Behring will allow the Yates group to test FibroKine™ peptide ability to effectively treat and halt the progression of pulmonary fibrosis.
Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis, Ph.D., University of Delaware, for exploring the use of cell derived micro-particles and vesicles (MkMPs) for the treatment of thrombocytopenias and in stem-cell targeted gene therapies
Gene delivery to or editing of Hematopoietic (blood) Stem and Progenitor Cells (HSPCs) can provide therapeutic benefit to patients for a variety of genetic hematological disorders, ranging from low platelet count diseases to primary immune deficiencies like Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. With the support of CSL Behring, Dr. Papoutsakis will investigate the use of human MkMPs: 1) to promote in vivo platelet biogenesis as a potential treatment for thrombocytopenias, and 2) for the in vivo delivery of DNA, RNA, and proteins to HSPCs in gene therapy applications.
In October 2018, the Science Center and CSL Behring joined forces to identify promising technologies and support the commercialization pathways of potential new discoveries. Researchers at academic and research institutions throughout the region were invited to submit proposals for projects with a focus on therapeutics that fit within CSL Behring’s five therapeutic areas of expertise: immunology and neurology; hematology and thrombosis; respiratory; cardiovascular and metabolic; and transplant.
Following the success of the initial pilot, the CSL Behring – Science Center Research Initiative has expanded and is currently accepting applications from researchers at 28 institutions across six states with awardees to receive up to $400,000 each.