The National Science Foundation awarded a Purdue-affiliated pharmaceuticals startup a $256,000 grant for the group to further its research into groups of molecules that have the potential to combat COVID-19.
Akanocure Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to use the grant money to research and develop AK-423, “a broad-spectrum antiviral and immunomodulatory agent that is designed to stop the viruses from replicating and aid the immune system in providing an appropriate response,” according to a Purdue News release.
Prior to the pandemic, Akanocure’s primary focus was drug development for people with cancers that are difficult to treat, the release states.
In the spring of 2020, the company received $750,000 from the NSF to further its research, according to a news release from April. The group’s focus, however, has shifted to address the public health crisis presented by COVID-19.
“We felt a moral obligation to help as the world struggles with this deadly pandemic that has claimed lives and economies,” Akanocure CEO Sherine Abdelmawla, a Purdue alumna, in an interview with Purdue News. She earned her doctorate in medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology from Purdue, her staff biography on the company's website states.
The severity of COVID-19 stems from abnormal immune reactions that wreak havoc on the body and can lead to multi-organ damage, she said.
“In the process of fighting the virus, our body organs get attacked by our own immune system as collateral damage," Abdelmawla said. "An ideal treatment would not only stop the virus from making more copies of itself but would also regulate the abnormal immune response."
Akanocure is located in the Purdue Research Park and received assistance from the Purdue Foundry, a startup accelerator in Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue's Discovery Park.