Nortis, a Seattle-based biotech company, has received a $688,000 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a living, 3-D model of the human blood-brain barrier that will be used for laboratory testing to accelerate drug development and lessen the likelihood of failure in clinical trials.
This grant provides funding for a third year of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award given to Nortis by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a branch of the NIH. SBIR provides grants to U.S.-based small businesses to do federal research and enable the commercialization of technology.
The blood-brain barrier is a tissue barrier that only allows certain molecules to pass from blood vessels into the brain. It is a protective mechanism to prevent the entry of foreign bodies and infection-causing organisms in the brain. Researchers are trying to find ways of delivering medications across this barrier, to reach brain tissues to treat diseases that include multiple sclerosis.
“Understanding how drugs are transported across the blood-brain barrier and interact with the brain presents a significant scientific challenge,” Thomas Neumann, CEO of Nortis and principal investigator on the project, said in a press release.
“More predictive preclinical models based on human tissue are urgently needed to reduce costs and minimize clinical trial failures,” he added. “This grant will help us develop new in-vitro alternatives to traditional pharmaceutical drug development testing on laboratory animals.”
Nortis’ proprietary ParVivo system enables the creation of 3-D models of living human organs on small chips that can tested in vitro, or in the laboratory. This helps researchers recreate the environment in the body, and study diseases and drugs to treat them. The ParVivo system has the potential to reduce clinical trials on animals and trial failures, the company states.
In creating a living model of the blood-brain barrier, Nortis is expanding the application of its ParVivo system to the field of neurology.
According to the release, organ models currently under development by scientists and others using ParVivo include applications for kidney, brain, heart, liver, immune system, blood vessels, cancer, and personalized medicine.
The fast-track SBIR grant awarded the company by NINDS for this project is grant number R44NS095585.