Progenesis Technologies, a biotechnology company headquartered in Huntington, West Virginia, and with ties to Marshall University, has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for $1.06 million over a two-year period.
Progenesis was founded in 2006 by two Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine faculty members, Richard Niles, Ph.D., and Hongwei Yu, Ph.D., based on patented discoveries from Yu’s research on genetically engineered bacteria that produce the biopolymer alginate used in a variety of applications including textile manufacturing, food production, wound care and drug delivery. Niles is the Principal Investigator of this new grant.
“This grant provides funding toward the continued development and commercialization of unique polymers produced by non-pathogenic bacteria,” said Niles, chief operating officer for Progenesis and an emeritus faculty member of the School of Medicine. “Currently, these alginates are extracted from brown seaweed, but this compound has a fixed composition that limits its performance. The grant allows for additional work on our engineered alginates, particularly to enhance their performance in advanced wound care.”
Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, said the new funding means continued research opportunities for the region.
“Progenesis is an innovative company and has great potential for expansion,” Shapiro said. “We look forward to their future successes, particularly in the field of medicine.”
Offering his congratulations to the company and its principals, Congressman Evan H. Jenkins said exciting research advancement is occurring in Huntington.
“Researchers will use this grant to advance methods that have the potential to improve patient care and expand our understanding of innovative treatment methods,” Jenkins said. The SBIR grant follows a similar competitive award to Progenesis in 2015 and, according to Niles, the current grant is the first Phase II NIH award to a company in West Virginia.
Throughout its existence, Progenesis has had a strong relationship with Marshall University. The original patent is held by the Marshall University Research Corporation and the company has an exclusive worldwide license.
“Progenesis Technologies is exemplifying the power of university-originated research in driving economic development,” said John Maher, Ph.D., vice president for research at Marshall University. “The award of this highly competitive grant for the further development of their innovation provides solid external validation of their technology.”
Continuing research includes team members from the Marshall University School of Pharmacy, namely, Jinsong Hao, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences. Additionally, the company has received support from Marshall Health, the faculty practice plan of the School of Medicine.