News Release: SUNY Poly Receives $75,000 National Science Foundation Award for Development of Bioengineered and Improved Blood Thinner
For Release: Immediate – October 7, 2019
Contact: Steve Ference, Director of University Communications | (518) 956-7319 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant is Part of Collaboration with TEGA Therapeutics, Inc. Supporting Research Leading to
Engineered Cells and Production of a Scalable Heparin Product
ALBANY, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) announced today that Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Susan Sharfstein is receiving $75,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a bioengineered version of the anticoagulant (blood thinner) known as heparin to replace the current animal-derived product. The grant, which is in collaboration with and provided under a sub-award from TEGA Therapeutics, Inc. (TEGA), aims to leverage SUNY Poly’s faculty’s capabilities and advanced laboratories while providing hands-on student lab experience to create a safer form of heparin and reduce concerns about its global supply chain.
“On behalf of SUNY Poly, I congratulate Dr. Sharfstein on this research award which showcases the expertise of SUNY Poly’s faculty as it leads to the development of a bioengineered blood thinner, which is critical for so many people in New York State and across the nation,” said SUNY Poly Interim President Dr. Grace Wang. “By working to create this anticoagulant drug outside of the current supply chain which can be susceptible to a number of problematic international variables, SUNY Poly is not only paving the way toward a more secure supply of this critical therapeutic, it is also enabling exciting opportunities for students to take part in this meaningful research and gain highly valued hands-on laboratory skills.”
Heparin is a widely prescribed anticoagulant, which is critical for surgical operations and patients who otherwise have risks of blood clotting; more than 300,000 doses are administered each year in the United States alone. Because it is currently prepared from animal tissues, primarily in China, regulation can be difficult, and the relevant animal population may not be able to keep up with the rising demand for heparin. Dr. Sharfstein’s team aims to develop cell-based production in which the entire supply chain can be under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) control, while providing scalability without dependence on the number or health of an animal population.
During the course of the award, SUNY Poly researchers, as well as a visiting scientist from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, will focus on rapid techniques for analyzing productivity and product quality, in addition to a SUNY Poly post-doctoral student whose work will center on the bioprocessing aspect of obtaining the maximum productivity while retaining product quality.
“I am grateful to the National Science Foundation and my collaborators at TEGA Therapeutics, Inc., including Bryan Thacker and Charles Glass, as we attempt to define a new paradigm in biomanufacturing, which can enable the production of carbohydrate drugs, rather than protein drugs,” said Professor Sharfstein. “I am thrilled to work with our partners, as well as provide excellent opportunities for students to learn about our cutting-edge approaches to commercializing technologies that can lead to the production of heparin with improved properties, such as the ability to avoid heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart attach, and death. To achieve this, we anticipate being able to produce heparin molecules with an altered structure that will have reduced affinities for bonding with the protein, platelet factor 4 (PF4), while it still maintains potent anticoagulant properties. In addition, we look forward to exploring heparin’s efficacy in other areas, including inflammation and cancer.”
Dr. Charles Glass, President & CSO of TEGA Therapeutics, Inc., said, “As a small biotech company, TEGA benefits greatly from collaborating with Dr. Sharfstein’s lab at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. The collaboration gives us access to outstanding expertise that would otherwise be difficult to bring in-house. We also appreciate the NSF for recognizing the value that the collaboration brings to finding solutions for this important medical problem.”
This latest grant is funded through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which has an overall program goal of enabling small businesses to thrive by providing incentive to advance R&D through successful commercialization as it concurrently drives high-tech innovation and entrepreneurial activity. For more information, please visit the SBIR website: https://www.sbir.gov/. Dr. Sharfstein’s research in this area further builds upon previous grants, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant in partnership with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), along with two previous Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants, one of which was in collaboration with TEGA.
This announcement also follows a recent event in which SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson provided closing remarks and presented a $50,000 check to the winner of SUNY’s first ever Technology Accelerator Fund Most Valuable Pitch, a competition for SUNY affiliated start-up companies. It capped a daylong engagement held at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus and hosted in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, in which the SBIR program “road tour” made its first visit to Albany.
About SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)
SUNY Poly is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience programs at its Albany campus, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica campus; thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and hundreds of corporate partners since its inception. For information visit www.sunypoly.edu.