A-Alpha Bio Wins NSF Grant for Cancer Drug Development

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The National Science Foundation grant will be used to commercialize a synthetic biology platform for cancer drug development.

A-Alpha Bio, a biotech startup specializing in synthetic biology and DNA sequencing tools, announced on July 24, 2018 that it has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 to develop AlphaSeq, a cell-based platform for accelerating cancer drug development by enabling high-throughput and quantitative characterization of protein-protein interactions.

Pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs that kill cancer cells by blocking key protein-protein interactions that enable the uncontrolled cell growth of these cells. Blocking protein-protein interactions that occur in healthy cells, however, could cause serious side-effects, making specificity a major concern.

"A-Alpha Bio's AlphaSeq technology is a game-changer for preclinical drug screening," said Randolph Lopez, chief technology officer and co-founder of A-Alpha Bio, in a company press release. "It lets us measure the effect of a drug on thousands of protein-protein interactions simultaneously, instead of having to measure each one individually. Pharmaceutical companies will not have to limit their preclinical testing to a small number of likely off-target effects. With AlphaSeq, they can avoid costly and potentially life-threatening surprises during clinical trials by screening their drugs against whole protein networks."

Protein interactions are widely recognized as being critically important for the development of many different types of drugs, the company reports. AlphaSeq provides an advantage over existing approaches to screening these interactions by combining high accuracy and throughput, which is enabled by advances in the fields of synthetic biology and DNA sequencing. The SBIR grant is aimed at expanding the capabilities of AlphaSeq for screening interactions with challenging proteins and insoluble small-molecule drugs. Once completed, A-Alpha Bio will be eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000) for pilot testing and scale-up.


Earlier in 2018, A-Alpha Bio won the University of Washington's business plan competition.

Source: A-Alpha Bio