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05/11/10 - NanoVir scientists awarded $1.83 million NIH grant

Scientists at Kalamazoo-based NanoVir and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) have received a $1.83 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health R01 grant for their research on new antiviral drugs candidates they hope will be used to fight high-risk human papillomaviruses, or HPVs, the causes of most cervical cancer. The grant is called "Biophysics of Drug Interactions with Viral Episomes.

"The Principal Investigator is James Bashkin, lead NanoVir chemist and research associate professor at UMSL, who will collaborate with Chris Fisher of NanoVir, and with Cynthia Dupureur and Michael Nichols, of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the Center for Nanoscience at UMSL.  The grant was awarded to study the biophysics of drug candidates discovered by NanoVir. NanoVir, LLC is a drug discovery company dedicated to finding treatments for HPV, a primary cause of both abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. Bashkin is a founding member of the company along with Fisher, who is director of biology at NanoVir in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"We all are extremely happy that the NIH is supporting our research, which addresses the fundamental science of new antiviral candidates," Bashkin said. "We are working toward an understanding of molecules that were designed to be therapeutic treatments for early intervention against cancer-causing forms of HPV. Currently there are two vaccines on the market that protect against 2 of the 8 known forms of HPV that cause cancer.  In addition, the vaccines aren't yet used by enough people to have realized their full potential impact.  A drug therapy would treat women who have not and will not benefit from the vaccines, and so would have a direct impact on women's health."

In 2007, the National Cancer Institute estimated that 11,000 women in the United States would be diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 4,000 would die from it. There are no drugs currently approved in the United States that specifically treats HPV infection.  Cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer among lethal cancers that affect women worldwide.

The National Institutes of Health has supported the NanoVir project through three previous Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants to NanoVir and this RO1 grant totaling over $5,000,000. “The fact that we’ve competed so successfully for a variety of NIH grants over the last 6 years is testimony to the potential hign impact of our science and the quality of our research staff” says Dr. Fisher.

The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments, and even cures for common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 institutes and centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.

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