Biophagy, an Albuquerque biopharmaceutical company, is developing drugs that modulate autophagy for therapeutic areas with high unmet need. Autophagy is a ubiquitous process whereby cells eliminate infectious organisms and unwanted denatured materials. Its decline (often seen with aging) can exacerbate infectious and neurodegenerative diseases including tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, as well as aging symptomology.
Mary Ortner, Biophagy’s president and CEO, needed specialized imaging technology to help move the research forward. Through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) Program, she was paired with Sandia National Laboratories scientists Jerilyn Timlin, Meghan Dailey, and Bryan Carson. Due to their continuing work on projects relating to Sandia’s biodefense mission, they had the experience and specialized hyperspectral confocal imaging equipment to demonstrate autophagy drug binding sites in a unique, highly specialized manner.
Binding patterns discovered by the Sandia scientists helped Biophagy understand and identify discrete autophagic mechanisms and establish proof of concept (POC) using a surrogate TB model, also developed by Sandia. As a result of this successful research partnership, the company has hired an additional consultant in chemistry and is now developing a proprietary chemical series for drug development against resistant strains of tuberculosis.
Ortner credits the research done with Sandia through NMSBA as being of great value as it has given Biophagy sufficient data to apply for a National Institute of Health Small Business Technology Transfer grant. The progression of research from POC to designing the company’s own proprietary compounds is also creating a larger portfolio of intellectual property, making Biophagy more attractive to potential investors and pharmaceutical company partners.