Biotechnology company Ocean Biomedical, Inc. (NASDAQ: OCEA) on Tuesday said its chief scientist, Jonathan Kurtis MD, PhD has received the prestigious Falk Medical Research Trust Transformational Award to advance a new class of anti-malarial drug candidates.
Ocean Biomedical is engaged in the development of therapeutic discoveries with the potential to achieve life-changing outcomes in cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and malaria research. It has a promising pipeline of late-stage pre-clinical assets in these areas.
Dr. Kurtis’ malaria drug program stems from his groundbreaking malaria vaccine research, targeting a critical stage of the malaria cycle. The program includes a therapeutic small-molecule drug candidate for treating severe malaria and a therapeutic antibody for short-term malaria prevention. It is designed to address the growing resistance to the current best-in-class Artemisinin-based medicines.
(Source: Ocean Biomedical, Inc.)
Dr. Kurtis, who is one of the company’s co-founders, commented, “It has become increasingly apparent that a new, more effective class of antimalarials is needed, especially to combat severe malaria. We believe that our therapeutic candidates could provide a comprehensive defense against some of the most devastating forms of the disease, and I am grateful to the Falk Medical Research Trust for recognizing this new paradigm for malaria drug development.”
After working on vaccine development for decades, Dr. Kurtis and his team have made a series of discoveries that have allowed them to hone in on three key targets in the ‘blood stage’ of the malaria cycle, each critical to a different segment of that stage: invasion, intracellular development, and egress from the cell. Kurtis is working to optimize Ocean Biomedical’s vaccine candidate to potentially target all three segments of the blood stage simultaneously, an advanced effort that even before the COVID-19 vaccine was using the mRNA delivery platform.
The company’s malaria drug program grew out of the vaccine effort, and has already demonstrated that the family of small molecule drugs in development by Dr. Kurtis’ team are highly specific for PfGARP binding, are non-toxic in multiple in vitro and in vivo systems, have excellent pharmacokinetic properties, and rapidly clear parasitemia in animal models.
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