Fauna Bio Inc., a biotechnology company leveraging the science of evolution and comparative genomics to discover new treatments for human diseases, has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Office of Research and Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the development of its integrated genomics platform and testing of repurposed drug candidates.
Founded in 2018, headquartered in Berkeley, California, Fauna Bio is developing new ways to treat human diseases, such as heart disease and neurodegenerative disease, by adopting mechanisms that animals have developed for traits such as hibernation and deep-diving. Founded by three scientists; Dr. Ashley Zehnder, Dr. Linda Goodman and Dr. Katharine Grabek, who have intimate knowledge of the best science and resources from the field of non-model organisms, Fauna Bio leverages data from hundreds of species in order to help develop pre-clinical and early clinical testing for new therapeutics targeting human diseases.
The grant allows Fauna Bio to extend its discovery platform with sequencing data from its biobank of 13-lined ground squirrel tissues, which is the species that has emerged as the model hibernator. Fauna Bio will then integrate existing publicly available genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data for this species.
Additionally, they will analyze evolutionarily accelerated genes in the improved dataset. Using this unified platform, Fauna Bio will identify genes associated with timepoints at which ground squirrels are protected from heart and brain damage. Then the team will conduct pathway analyses and in-silico drug screening to generate a list of candidate compounds predicted to protect humans from the effects of diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
“We are very excited to have received this grant from the NIH SBIR program as it validates our scientific approach and demonstrates the broad use potential of the technology we are building.” … “Our work with ORIP is well-aligned as their mission is focused on building models that can be applied to multiple areas of human health.” – Dr. Ashley Zehnder, CEO and co-founder, Fauna Bio
“ORIP provides critically needed support of medical research by funding development of animal models of disease, like 13-lined ground squirrels, and by funding research training for veterinarian-scientists.” Dr. Paul Buckmaster, Stanford Professor of Comparative Medicine and Neurology
“The Fauna team has the perfect combination of expertise to build on rich datasets from non-traditional species and demonstrate their power for drug discovery.” … “The NIH is recognizing the importance of animal genomics data as critical to understanding not only what is truly functional in the human genome, but also for developing novel therapies. This grant is a key step in the process of building Fauna’s platform that can then extend into multiple areas of novel therapeutics.” – Dr. Carlos Bustamante, Professor of Biomedical Data Science, Stanford University