Aphios Corporation Awarded National Institutes of Health Grant for Development of Novel Anti-Influenza Drugs
September 07, 2003
Woburn, MA— Aphios Corporation has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for "Development of Novel Anti-Influenza Agents," from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Influenza, considered a Category C Priority Pathogen (emerging infectious disease threat) in the NIAID Biodefense Research Program, is a common and serious respiratory illness that contributes to the reduction of the quality of life and a significant loss of manpower hours each year. The most devastating aspect of influenza is that it causes substantial mortality among the elderly and persons who have underlying chronic health problems (20,000 – 40,000 deaths per year in the United States).

Annual vaccination is effective against the flu, but public participation is far from complete, even among high-risk individuals. The influenza strains used in the flu vaccine are selected from strains that are prevalent during the previous flu season; emerging strains not present in the vaccine will be able to infect vaccinated individuals. In addition, several manufacturing problems have led to a shortage of vaccine early during the flu season. Antiviral therapy is an important adjunct to the vaccine; currently, only four anti-influenza drugs are on the market in the United States. The need exists, therefore, for additional anti-influenza drugs.

Aphios plans to develop novel anti-influenza drugs through the screening of its library of unique marine molecule fractions for activity against influenza A and influenza B. Taking advantage of the diverse marine environment, Aphios has established a unique library of marine microorganisms from hydrothermal vents, deep-sea and near-shore locations, halophilic ponds and mangrove swamps, as well as from sponges, corals and other invertebrates that are known to produce bioactive compounds.

The diversity of Aphios' marine molecule library has been further enhanced by utilizing its patented SuperFluids™ processes, for first the cellular disruption and, secondly, the polarity-guided fractionation of cultured marine microorganisms. SuperFluids™ are near-critical, critical or supercritical fluids with or without polar cosolvents such as alcohols. When compressed, these fluids can be designed to exhibit enhanced thermodynamic properties of penetration, selection and expansion. In a direct, large-scale and broad comparison with conventional organic phase extraction techniques used in the pharmaceutical industry, we have demonstrated that the SuperFluids™ processes increase the recovery and diversity of secondary metabolites, reduce interference from nuisance compounds, and minimize the background noise in sensitive enzymatic and molecular-based screens.

Research leading to the development of these technologies was partially funded by SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation, and an Advance Technology Program (ATP) Cooperative Agreement award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), US Department of Commerce.

Aphios is a biopharmaceutical company that is developing enhanced natural therapeutics for health maintenance and the treatment of human diseases with a focus on infectious diseases, cancer and quality-of-life medicines. Aphios' product pipeline includes therapeutics from medicinal plants and marine organisms, and improved drug delivery formulations of small anticancer molecules and large protein macromolecules that are crucial to the functioning of the human genome.