NCBiotech loan, NIH grants fuel development of Symberix GI drugs

Posted by on Nov 9, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. –  The challenge of developing new drugs to treat serious lower gastrointestinal disorders has got easier to digest for Symberix, a Durham biopharmaceutical company.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spin-out is focused on early-stage development of a unique class of GI medicines. It was awarded a $250,000 Small Business Research Loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and has also received three National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovative Research grants totaling $2.9 million.

Symberix also has entered into a research collaboration agreement with NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

The grants came from NIH’s National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The NCBiotech loan will help fund Symberix’s development of a drug candidate to improve chemotherapy outcomes in cancer patients. And the collaboration agreement supports significant in-kind research efforts to aid microbiome-targeted discovery.

“We appreciate the recognition and support from NCBiotech and the National Institutes of Health,” Symberix CEO Ward Peterson said. “These grants, the loan and the NCATS research collaboration will allow us to advance a new therapeutic paradigm based on non-antibiotic control of the gut microbiome. The ‘symbiotic’ therapies we are developing to mitigate drug-induced lower GI side effects could be as clinically and commercially meaningful as existing medications to treat drug-induced upper GI side effects such as nausea, vomiting and stomach ulcers.”

There are currently no approved drugs that work the way Symberix’s therapies do. They selectively block the harmful activity of bacteria without also causing widespread damage to the microbiome. Antibiotics are usually the drugs of choice for lower GI ailments, but they are non-selective and can compromise the good bacteria essential to human heath.

More than $130 billion is spent each year in the United States to treat patients who suffer from adverse drug reactions. Lower GI side effects are among the most common. These and other lower GI disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and infectious diarrhea are areas of significant unmet need that symbiotic drugs can potentially address.

Symberix was founded in 2013 by Peterson, a 20-year biopharmaceutical R&D executive, and Matthew Redinbo, Ph.D., Kenan distinguished professor of chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology at UNC. Original technology, licensed from UNC, is based on Redinbo’s breakthrough research.

Peterson is Symberix’s chairman and CEO and Redinbo is chief scientific officer. Greg Mossinghoff, who formally worked for GI Therapeutics, Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Glaxo Wellcome and Roche, joined the company this year as chief business officer. The young company also has three research scientists on staff.

Symberix is located in downtown Durham at Biolabs, a national membership-based network of shared labs and offices in key biotech innovation clusters.

Looking ahead, Redinbo said Symberix is leading efforts to identify and control specific proteins within the intestinal microbiome. The goal is to improve therapeutic outcomes and to eventually cure — and even prevent — disease.

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