COVID-19 Vaccine With Patch Delivery Technology Enters Preclinical Testing at UC Davis
COVID-19 Related Resources for Startups (March 23, 2020)
We recognize that many startups are struggling to adapt to the evolving situation with COVID-19. To provide a starting point for innovators and entrepreneurs, we have assembled a few links to resources that may be helpful as you navigate operating a startup during these unprecedented times. The Venture Catalyst team is working remotely, but remains available to assist START program participants, so please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Support for UC startups and technology development addressing COVID-19
- California Small Business Development Center – COVID-19 Resources
- California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development – Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)
- U.S. Small Business Administration – Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
- Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – Coronavirus Rapid Response Hub
- StartupSac – Resources for Sacramento Entrepreneurs Amid COVID-19 Impacts
- Guidance from LegalNet Partner Stoel Rives: COVID-19: Does Shelter in Place Apply to My Business?
- Information from VentureNet Partner Eva Garland Consulting: COVID-19 Funding Opportunities
For those startups with a current SBIR/STTR grant or contract or were anticipating responding to an open solicitation, we encourage you to check the agency web site for updates and reach out to the program officer for guidance.
Sierra Biopharma is Developing Antigen-Specific Therapy Targeting Autoimmune Diseases
Sierra Biopharma, a biotechnology startup founded on intellectual property developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis, is developing a new therapeutic approach to treat autoimmune diseases.
Inventors and co-founders Robert Fairclough and Vu Trinh have set an initial focus on treating myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 1.4 million people globally. Myasthenia gravis causes use-induced muscle fatigue and generalized muscle weakness that can result in life-altering difficulties with seeing, swallowing, talking and walking. The disease stems from a mistake made by the immune system in producing antibodies that bind to neurotransmitter receptors, triggering the immune system to destroy the folded post-synaptic muscle fiber membranes that are vital for repeated muscle contractions.
Sierra Biopharma is taking a new approach to treat the disease with an antigen-specific therapy that attacks the cause of the disease without suppressing the entire immune system. To accomplish this, the company is developing a biologic compound that not only binds to, neutralizes and clears the pathogenic antibodies, but also binds to and eliminates the memory B-cells responsible for producing more of the pathogenic antibodies.
Fairclough and Trinh recently completed the Biotech Innovation Gallery (BIG) Accelerator program led by UC Davis Venture Catalyst. The program provides leaders of UC Davis-associated biotech startups with training on how to develop an effective business model, strategies to protect intellectual property and guidance on how to pitch to potential strategic partners and investors.. The year’s program concluded with a showcase event where 22 startups, including Sierra Biopharma, pitched their value proposition to venture capitalists and biotech companies attending the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
“It was amazing to be surrounded by so many fantastic biotech startups from UC Davis,” said Fairclough, an emeritus associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Neurology. “We were able to pitch our research to so many VCs and companies and they provided us with great insight and guidance in how best to proceed with the company’s development.”
Sierra Biopharma is now scaling up production of the therapeutic biologic and plans to complete the proof of concept and preclinical work in the next six months. The company has accepted an invitation to participate in the 2020 Science2Startup showcase event — a forum for top scientists from around the world to present their ideas and interact with leading investors and executives in the Boston biotechnology hub.