Biotech firm seeks to advance novel exosome isolation-based therapy for COVID-19 into clinical trials

Biotech firm seeks to advance novel exosome isolation-based therapy for COVID-19 into clinical trials

COVID-19, Fusion Medical Animation

Editor’s note: The following is part of Startland News’ ongoing coverage of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, as well as how innovation is helping to drive a new normal in the ecosystem. Click here to follow related stories as they develop.

As the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak grows, Clara Biotech is working to gain approval on a first-of-its-kind therapeutic treatment to help flatten the curve of the virus’ spread, enhance recovery, and improve outcomes for infected patients, said James West.

James West, Clara Biotech

James West, Clara Biotech

Clara Biotech’s novel exosome isolation-based therapy would be appropriate for all individuals both prior to and after COVID- 19 infection, said West, co-founder of the Lawrence-based startup. Not only would the therapy significantly reduce the number of patients becoming critically ill from lung complications, it would free up precious hospital and ventilator resources for others in need, he said.

“Currently, we are aware of no comparable products that could provide these critical health benefits,” he said, emphasizing the U.S. currently only has roughly 64,400 ICU beds available nationwide to treat patients of all needs, not simply for coronavirus.

Click here to learn about Clara Biotech work with cancer detection.

Mei He, Clara Biotech

Dr. Mei He, Clara Biotech

Located at the Bioscience and Technology Business Center (BTBC) at the University of Kansas, Clara Biotech was founded by KU assistant professor Dr. Mei He in 2018 after research pointed to a possible platform that isolates highly pure exosome functional subtypes for facilitating cancer treatments more efficiently than other currently accepted ultracentrifugation processes. However, the team has always anticipated being able to utilize exosome isolation as a means to treat other illnesses, including current pandemic COVID-19 infections.

“Our ability to use this technology to pivot and address critical global health challenges as they arise is exciting,” said He. “With the CDC estimating as many as 40 million Americans needing hospitalization as the current pandemic unfolds, with as much as 53 percent of those individuals needing ICU care lasting 20 to 30 days, the time is now to move this research forward and make this therapy available to the masses.”

Clara Biotech has raised about $615,000 throughout its startup journey and participated in a number of relevant biotechnology growth programs. West also pitched last fall at Pure Pitch Rally, where he was awarded $8,000 cash and $5,000 in development credits from investors and sponsors.

James West, Clara Biotech; Pure Pitch Rally 2019; photo by Mikaela Wendel

The startup has a pathway to rapidly move into human clinical trials, West said, noting Clara Biotech’s work is supported by Dr. Ilya Rachman, a physician-scientist and former clinical faculty member at UCLA with more than 15 years of clinical trial experience.

Clara Biotech’s solution is expected to enable breakthroughs not only related to cancer and COVID-19, but also Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, ischemic stroke and other illnesses.