NSF awards SBIR grant for study of brain-immune axis in COVID-19

NSF awards SBIR grant for study of brain-immune axis in COVID-19

February 24, 2021

Florica Therapeutics, Inc. has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $255,678 to work on the Hypothalamus Stem Cell Exosomes for Treatment of COVID-19 project.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

This Phase I grant will develop drugs that can modulate the immune response to prevent escalation of COVID-19 to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The hypothalamus is crucial to secretion of cortisol and other immune-modulators that dampen the immune response following immune activation. We will test whether exosome-based therapeutics produced from hypothalamus stem cells can abate the cytokine storm that is the leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients.

“To stand on the cutting edge, one must engage in high-risk, high-reward research. The most innovative research charts a course through the unknown, and venturing into the unknown is scary because it contains a degree of technical risk that scares away most private investors. We believe that the only thing scarier than the unknown, is blindly following the already known, mistaking comfort for safety. We are so very grateful for the NSF for underwriting our technical risk as we venture out into the final frontier, to develop therapeutics to treat disease using the human brain—an organ nearly impossible to study due to the scarcity in obtaining living tissue. This Phase 1 study will lay the basis for development of an entirely novel class of therapeutics based on the hypothalamus stem cell exosomes,” said Christine Ichim, CEO of Florica Therapeutics.

Ichim said Florica Therapeutics is a labor of love dedicated to her mother, Florica Ichim.

"When I was 10 years old, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia. I promised her that she would not fight alone, and I dedicated my life to extending the lives of others through biomedical research," she said. "I was so passionate about medical research that when I was 14, I built a laboratory in my basement. When I was 18, I rollerbladed 5,000 miles across Canada to give hope to cancer patients and prove that the human spirit can overcome the impossible.”

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