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Carb-X Funding Nanoscale Sponge to Treat Sepsis

Hospital room

(Pikist)

21 Oct. 2020. A company developing tiny particles made of cellular material to soak-up toxins in the body received a $4 million award to advance its sepsis treatment. Carb-X, an international consortium to fight antibiotic resistance making the award, says Cellics Therapeutics in San Diego is also eligible for another $11 million if all project milestones are fulfilled.

Sepsis is a life-threatening infection often contracted in hospitals. The disease results from an immune-system reaction to chemicals released by the body to fight infection, including infections from medical equipment such as catheters. These inflammatory immune responses can occur anywhere in the body and generate a series of further reactions, including blood clots and leaking blood vessels, causing organ damage and failure.

If sepsis develops into septic shock, blood pressure drops sharply, often causing death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1.7 million people in the U.S. develop sepsis each year, resulting in some 270,000 deaths, about one-third of all deaths that occur in hospitals.

Cellics Therapeutics is a spin-off company from the lab of its founder, biomedical and chemical engineering professor Liangfang Zhang at University of California in San Diego, creating nanoscale sponge-particle therapies and vaccines. Zhang and colleagues at UC-San Diego study nanoscale technologies addressing diseases. Science & Enterprise reported earlier on the lab’s work developing nanoscale sponges to reduce joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis and robotic nanoscale sponges to clean blood toxins.

Cellics’s nanoscale sponge therapies are made from cellular materials making them act as decoys to attract and sequester harmful molecules, while still looking like natural cells. One of the company’s product lines are sponge treatments made from macrophage membranes. Macrophages are immune system cells made from white blood cells, and formed from precursor monocyte cells, which enter infected areas and engulf target cells. Cellics’s macrophage sponges are given in large quantities to outnumber and overwhelm the target cells, while not triggering an immune response.

Steve Chen, Cellics Therapeutics’ chief medical officer, says in a Carb-X statement, “Our macrophage nanosponge technology leverages the natural receptors on human macrophage membranes to neutralize bacterial pore-forming toxins, endotoxins, and inflammatory cytokines that underlie sepsis.”

The Carb-X award funds Cellics Therapeutics’ macrophage sponge to treat sepsis. The initial $3.94 million grant supports preclinical tests of the sponge with lab animals to determine its potential as a sepsis treatment. The company’s team will also identify cell lines for future manufacturing of the sponges. Should the project continue, Cellics is eligible for another $11.05 million in milestone payments.

“Carb-X funds and supports early development of innovative antibiotics and other treatments that target the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria,” adds Carb-X research and development chief Erin Duffy. “Cellics’ nanosponge product, if successful, could potentially transform the treatment of sepsis and save lives.”

Carb-X, short for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, is an international initiative to fight antibiotic resistance. The public-NGO consortium is made up of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Wellcome Trust, a foundation based in London, that provide the funding or in-kind services. Partnering organizations include Boston University law school where CARB-X is headquartered.

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