Get our newsletters

State grants for COVID-19 research coming to Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center

Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced the award of 23 grants totaling $10 million for R&D associated with COVID-19 to Pennsylvania universities and other organizations, and four are coming to the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center (PABC), a nonprofit that is one of the nation’s most successful life sciences incubators.
Two grants will go to scientists developing potential COVID-19 treatments at the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, which manages the PABC and is located there.

Dr. Timothy M. Block will receive a $207,900 grant to continue his work to determine if a small molecule iminosugar, alone or in combination with the common drugs remdesivir or favipiravir, has useful antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Block is co-founder, president and CEO of the PABC, Blumberg Institute and Hepatitis B Foundation.

Dr. John Kulp, the Blumberg Institute’s director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Chemistry, and Dr. Usha Viswanathan, Blumberg assistant professor, will get a $165,406 grant to continue work on a potential drug they discovered. In laboratory testing, the compound inhibited the SARS-CoV2 spike protein binding to ACE2, meaning it could be the first small molecule anti-viral drug specifically designed for COVID-19 neutralization.

A $430,000 grant will go to the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center to build new labs, offices and instructional space to accommodate COVID-19 research and development. This complements the $19 million expansion now underway at the Bucks County facility, where numerous scientists – along with Block, Kulp and Viswanathan – are conducting R&D associated with COVID-19.

The fourth grant, totaling $321,912, is going to a PABC-member company, Evrys Bio, which is located in the center. The company’s scientists are developing host-targeted antiviral drugs that can block the growth of different respiratory viruses including coronaviruses, and that can provide a high barrier to drug resistance.

“We are punching above our weight, in a sense, when you consider the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center’s size relative to most of the others receiving grants,” said Louis P. Kassa, executive vice president of the PABC and Blumberg Institute. “While the center is just in its 14th year, we’ve been able to attract some extremely talented scientists and entrepreneurs with very promising ideas they are working to develop and commercialize.”

Located next to the Doylestown Airport in Buckingham Township, the center has more than 70 member companies, 41 of which have operations on site. The PABC website provides details about PABC membership options and upcoming events, such as the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center’s annual life sciences industry conference, which will be held on Nov. 5 as a webinar.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.