Star-tup at University of Hyderabad gets USISTEF fund to develop therapeutic for COVID-19

Hyderabad: A start-up incubated in the University of Hyderabad has received the United States-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) under the COVID-19 ignition grants for a novel therapeutic strategy to fight against the virus. Oncoseek Bio Pvt. Ltd., one of the the start-up companies of UoH’s  ASPIRE-BioNEST incubators, was one of the 11 proposals out of 520 that were selected for the fund.

This is the second competitive grant that the company has received. Earlier, it received a grant from BIRAC, Govt. of India, to develop a platform to screen the potential drug candidates for Covid 19. Oncoseekbio Pvt Ltd, which has been at ASPIRE-BioNEST since 2019, has a vision to develop in vitro and in vivo platforms for specific diseases for therapeutics screening.

To combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.–India Science & Technology Endowment Fund (USISTEF) had announced a call for proposals under the category of COVID-19 Ignition Grants in April 2020. After the binational review process, USISTEF announced awards to 11 bilateral teams, proposing ideas that can address the COVID-19 challenge.

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“In the present proposal, Oncoseek Bio Pvt Ltd., is proposing to create a therapeutic by developing neutralizing novel antibodies directed against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and other epitopes of the dpike protein of SARS-CoV-2”, the start-up informed in a media release.

The antibodies are conjugated to drug/Zn nanoparticle (ADCs), which would release the drug of choice at the site of action.   The company joined hands with Prof. August Avery of Cornell University, who will test the efficacy of these potential ADCs against COVID-19 using human angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) expressing mouse models.

Dr. Suresh Poosala, the main applicant who envisioned and created the proposal, said that these mouse models are not available in India and that this collaboration will be very helpful in doing vivo screening.

Prof. Appa Rao Podile, Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad congratulated the team of Oncoseek Bio Pvt. Ltd. and said that this development augurs well for the ASPIRE-BioNEST that is focussing on quality over quantity and the focus is paying dividends.

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