Fort Worth Immunotherapy Startup Gets $1.8M Grant Ahead of First Clinical Trials

AyuVis, an immunotherapy startup, is set to get a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The funding will support the pre-clinical research of its drug candidate to treat the second-leading cause of death in premature babies.

Founder Suchismita Acharya calls the timing "perfect."

A Fort Worth-based health care startup has landed fresh funding to fuel upcoming clinical trials to combat a deadly disease affecting pre-term babies.

AyuVis, a pre-clinical microphage immunotherapy company, announced that it’s set to receive a $1.8 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to tackle a chronic lung disease that’s the second-leading cause of death in premature babies.

“AyuVis’ first goal is to save and improve the lives of these babies…with its unique, first-in-class immunotherapy,” the company wrote in a statement.

‘New generation of immunotherapies’

Funding for the grant will go to support the company’s pre-clinical research into its drug candidate for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), ahead of human clinical trails set for this summer. The company first received orphan drug designation for the candidate, called AVR-48, from the FDA in early 2021.

While AVR-48 is the farthest along the regulatory pipeline, its not the only drug candidate AyuVis is working on. Overall, the company is using compounds that stimulate the body’s immune response, while controlling inflammation and infection. The company said it chose to focus on BPD first since there is currently no FDA-approved therapy for its prevention and treatment. However, it also has candidates aimed at pneumonia, peritonitis, and fibrosis—all of which are in the pre-clinical stages.

“This new generation of immunotherapies is based on a platform technology of macrophage modulation,” the company wrote.

AyuVis has deep ties to Fort Worth’s ecosystem

Founded in 2014 by former Alcon Labs leader Suchismita Acharya, AyuVis previously told Dallas Innovates that it would be interested in a licensing or M&A deal with a mid- or large-sized pharmaceutical company to take its successful drug candidates to market, noting it would take about five to seven years to do so itself.

The new funding, which comes from one of the institutes within the National Institutes of Health, brings AyuVis’ total from grant and other funding sources to more than $6.5 million. A member of Fort Worth nonprofit accelerator TechFW’s portfolio, AyuVis also counts local angel group Cowtown Angels as a backer. The company previously said it’s eyeing a future $12 million Series A funding round to boost manufacturing and clinical trials for drugs in its pipeline.

“This grant opens opportunities for subsequent follow-up, non-dilutive funding from the NIH and other agencies,” Acharya said in a statement. “The timing is perfect.”

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