HOUSTON, Aug. 01, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — 7 Hills Pharma LLC (“7 Hills” or “7HP”), a clinical-stage pharma company developing a platform of first-in-class oral small molecules to enhance the effectiveness of a wide range of immunotherapies, was awarded a 3-year grant worth almost $3 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to progress its work with collaborator Dr. Nisha Garg from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) toward the creation of the first vaccine against Chagas disease.
Chagas disease is one of five Neglected Parasitic Infections prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi ( Tc ), which is spread by triatomine bugs, also known as “kissing bugs.” With over 7 million annual recorded cases, approximately 81 million individuals at risk of Tc exposure in Latin America, and large-scale migration from endemic to other countries, including the USA, Chagas disease is a serious and growing global public health concern. Chagas disease infection can cause cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure, leading to over 50,000 deaths per year worldwide. The annual economic burden of Chagas disease is estimated at over $7 billion.
Dr. Garg’s lab developed a novel DNA-based vaccine to protect against Tc infection, which was tested in preclinical models in combination with 7HP’s lead, clinical-stage oral immunostimulant. Results of this initial study, published in the peer-reviewed journal npj Vaccines, demonstrated that the combination therapy was effective in both prophylactic and therapeutic settings.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to leverage our unique, selective oral integrin activation technology to improve the lives of millions suffering from this underrecognized scourge and protect many millions more from the potentially devastating outcomes of Chagas disease,” said Dr. Upendra Marathi, CEO of 7 Hills.
“Developing a vaccine that could prophylactically prevent Tc infection would increase the lifespan and economic productivity of millions worldwide. Further, a vaccine could be used to modulate the immune response in those who are already infected such that it prevents the clinical symptoms of Chagas disease,” said Dr. Nisha Garg, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston .
About 7 Hills Pharma LLC
7 Hills Pharma is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company developing a platform of novel, oral small molecules for the treatment of cancer and prevention of infectious diseases. Our compounds are first-in-concept allosteric integrin activators that leverage a unique mechanism of action to stabilize the cell-cell interactions required to mount an effective immune response. Our lead clinical candidate, 7HP349, is the only reported systemically safe immune stimulant that can activate both cellular and humoral immunity. For more information, visit http://www.7hillspharma.com.
7HP349 is 7HP’s lead, clinical-stage integrin agonist. It is a first-in-class, orally-delivered small molecule that safely and selectively activates the integrins LFA-1 and VLA-4 to augment the antigen-specific immune response. In preclinical models, 7HP349 has been shown to improve the effectiveness of a broad range of immune checkpoint inhibitors and a wide variety of infectious disease vaccines. In a Phase I clinical trial, 7HP349 demonstrated oral bioavailability and clean safety profile at exposures well exceeding therapeutic levels.
About University of Texas Medical Branch
Opened in 1891 as the nation’s first public medical school and hospital in Galveston, UTMB is now a major academic health sciences center of global influence; a world-renowned research enterprise; and a growing, comprehensive health system. Research enterprise. UTMB is home for the Galveston National Laboratory that is renowned worldwide for its research programs and resources for the global fight against infectious diseases. UTMB receives more than 200 awards annually, valued at more than $160 million for sponsored research.
UTMB places major emphasis on basic and clinical research, providing more than 1.15 million square feet of space specifically designed for research. UTMB has invested considerable resources to develop areas of research strength across the campus and to establish the infrastructure necessary to facilitate basic, clinical, and translational research. In its commitment to basic, clinical, and translational research, UTMB houses on of the largest research libraries in the southwest.
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