Missoula-based Inimmune Corp. has received a nearly $600,000 federal grant to identify and advance novel treatments for seasonal allergies. In an announcement Wednesday, the biotechnology firm said the two-year project will be led by Dr. Juhienah Khalaf, a medicine chemist at Inimmune. The $592,624 Small Business Innovation Research contract was awarded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Earlier this year, Khalaf and Inimmune received another Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop treatments for upper respiratory tract infections. Already, Inimmune researchers have completed that grant’s milestones and have applied for Phase II funding.

Khalaf said the contract announced Wednesday will “allow us to identify novel molecules, using an advanced computational and medicinal chemistry approach, for the treatment of seasonal allergies.” “This award is one more example of Inimmune’s unwavering pursuit to discover and develop novel immunotherapies for the treatment of allergy, autoimmunity, infectious disease and cancer,” Jay Evans, Inimmune co-founder, president and CEO, said in a written release. “The current Phase I SBIR award exemplifies the high quality of research at Inimmune and could help change the tide on the growing burden of allergic diseases,” Evans said.

Inimmune technicians conduct research in their lab at MonTEC. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Hélène Bazin-Lee, Inimmune co-founder, vice president of early discovery and leader of these early efforts, echoed Evans’ sentiments. “The new immunotherapy approach developed at Inimmune for the treatment of seasonal allergies has the potential to offer rapid desensitization, better efficacy, lower side effects and lower cost compared to currently available antigen- specific immunotherapies,” she said in the company’s announcement.

Inimmune was co-founded in 2016 by four pharmaceutical industry experts and an experienced team of researchers. Their intention was to utilize the human immune system to create next-generation immunotherapeutics. The team spent more than 20 years together working in Hamilton prior to forming Inimmune in Missoula. Their laboratories and offices are housed in the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC) and they work in close collaboration with researchers at the University of Montana’s Center for Translational Medicine. In fact, earlier this year, UM and Inimmune landed a $5.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a novel vaccine to fight bacterial infections in patients.

That award will help develop a vaccine to fight a particular bacteria known as P. aeruginosa. Considered a deadly pathogen, the bacteria serves as major cause of infections in diabetic wounds, lungs and other regions of the body.

Inimmune was named one of the top eight tech startups to watch for 2018 by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance.


Note: This article was first published by the Missoula Current on October, 3 2018.  Please see https://www.missoulacurrent.com/business/2018/10/inimmune-allergies/ for the original article.