BellBrook Labs Goes 4-for-4 to Win $2.7M in SBIR Grants for HTS and HCA Technologies
News Nov 17, 2009
BellBrook Labs has announced that it has been awarded $2.7M in Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund work on their proprietary Transcreener® and iuvo™ drug discovery platforms.
All four grants the company submitted in 2008 were funded, an outstanding success rate given BellBrook’s relatively small size and the highly competitive nature of the SBIR program.
“Our success with grants provides strong validation that we are developing technically sound solutions to address serious problems in drug discovery,” said CEO and President, Dr. Robert Lowery. The grants will fund research on faster, more accurate methods for identifying and predicting the effectiveness of new drug molecules, ultimately accelerating drug discovery for a broad range of diseases.
SBIR grants are evaluated by panels of experts drawn from industry and academics for overall scientific and commercial impact, innovation, technical approach, and the quality of the scientific team. In most years, the funding rate for Phase I grants - which are required to establish technical feasibility for a technology - is 20-25%, nationally. However, Wisconsin businesses have lagged in winning SBIR awards; the state’s success rate is only half the U.S. average. BellBrook’s success rate historically has been greater than 50%, and this year’s 100% marks a new milestone.
Lowery noted that BellBrook had difficulty getting their grants funded early on, and believes their success in recent years results from having built a reputation for BellBrook’s technologies within the drug discovery research community. “Our Transcreener products have been used by virtually every major pharmaceutical company, and some have published their results in peer-reviewed journals. That kind of track record gives us a lot of credibility,” Lowery said. He noted also that the company’s success in rapidly transitioning ideas into salable products, though not a requirement of the SBIR program, can make a favorable impact.
Steve Hayes, Bellbrook’s R&D Director, was awarded a Phase I grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to investigate how a more tissue-like, three-dimensional environment made possible in iuvo microchannels affects tumor cell responses to potential drug molecules.
Ivar Meyvantsson, Bellbrook’s Engineering Manager, was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) under a Phase II grant to improve and extend applications for the iuvo Chemotaxis Assay Plate, which measures the directed movement of cells toward chemical signals.
Lowery received funding for a Phase I grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and a Phase II grant from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Both grants focus on extending the utility of Transcreener technology for identifying drugs that target kinases, the most intensively screened protein family, as well as many emerging drug targets that offer promise for new therapeutic strategies.