IN THE KNOW: MARCH, 2020
It’s Tuesday, another day in lockdown. Prior to the breakout of COVID-19, I was scheduled to fly to Washington, DC today in preparation for a day of one-on-one meetings with our Congressional delegation tomorrow, April 1. The members of the House and Senate, however, are social distancing at home in the districts until at least April 20. In the meantime, here’s an interesting read from POLITICOon how the coronavirus “shook Congress out of complacency.”
In this month’s newsletter, we’ll focus on several promising national initiatives to combat the coronavirus as well revealing some promising developments by a few of our NM-based member firms. We’ve also compiled and are forwarding the best national and state websites that will serve as a guide to assist you with making wise business decisions.
First, some good news updates: BIO’s 2020 International Convention scheduled for June 8 and 11 in San Diego is still on. NMBio recently received a $2,500 grant from the Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos National Laboratory to help cover the costs of hosting the NM Pavilion. Bioscience firms and organization that have already signed up to be part of the pavilion include the New Mexico Bioscience Authority, the New Mexico Economic Development Department, Pebble Labs, Sandia Biotech, NTxBio, the City of Rio Rancho, AWS Biopharma Technologies, the Arrowhead Center at NMSU, and Socorro Therapeutics. As you prepare for the fundraising season this fall, keep the White Hat Life Science Investor Conference top of mind. It will be held in Phoenix in September; 32 bioscience companies from the Southwest will have the opportunity to present to angel investors, family offices, venture capital firms institutional investors from across the country. More than $825 million has been invested in White Hat companies since presenting at the prior three events that were held in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Now, back to COVID-19 breaking news:
The Cabinet secretaries of the Economic Development Department, Department of Workforce Solutions, Tourism Department, and the small business advisor from the Office of the Governor regarding the state’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic have joined forces to provide the resources that can be found here to assist companies impacted by the virus. Working together, they developed a clearinghouse to enhance communications during this critical time. You can submit your business questions, challenges, and feedback through the Business Rapid Response online submission form. All submissions will be reviewed and filtered to the appropriate agency for timely response. Click here to submit. The Economic Rapid Response Taskforce will continue to focus on recovery, serving the needs of the business community. Moreover, the Office of the Governor is working hand-in-hand with New Mexico’s congressional delegation and New Mexico’s state legislators.
Tax/Trade: BIO continues to work on clarifying the affiliation rules regarding small business loans. The goal is to make sure that small businesses with equity investors will not be excluded from the loan program. We signed on to a coalition letter with NVCA that will be sent to the administration highlighting the issue. Additionally, we will be drafting letters for members of Congress to send as well. Once we have those drafted, we will send to the GRC for approval. In terms of a 4.0 package, BIO is putting together various proposals this week; the staff will share those as soon as possible.
Buy American: The Administration is preparing an Executive Order for health-related goods. Attached, please find letter expressing concern from 92 national, state, and local organizations including BIO and several state BIO associations, including NMBio. It has been delivered to Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, Ambassador Lighthizer, and Director Kudlow as well as members of their staff. See the Reuters article on the letter. Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, attacked the effort as the work of “Big Pharma and its well-heeled Swamp Creatures.”
Member J&J sent the following message and video yesterday that details its initiatives against the Coronavirus.
Bill Gates Talks: It’s a video that’s making the rounds on social media – and it’s from 2015! Bill Gates’ 5-year old TED TALK titled “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” Still worth watching.
While we are facing challenging times, we need to look forward to brighter days ahead, Hang tough.
Innovate, Plan, Experiment, and Pilot Something New
The Regional Engagement Challenge is a new opportunity for New Mexico organizations working to cultivate New Mexico’s technology based ecosystem. This new sponsorship initiative, funded by the Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos National Laboratory, encourages the exploration and implementation of new methods to increase technology commercialization, stimulate new business startups, attract entrepreneurs, create alternative job opportunities, and attract businesses and capital to the region.
Organizations will be able to request sponsorship through a simple application outlining funding requested how the funds will be used, the goals of this use, and how the requestor will measure and assess outcomes and successes. Interested organizations must submit letters of intent by Feb 18, 2020 and proposals by March 2, 2020. Notification of funding decisions will be by March 16, 2020. Available funding: up to $75,000 total is available to fund all proposals. All proposals should be one-time events or be sustainable without additional FCI support (e.g., new program designs).
FCI hopes the Regional Engagement Challenge will help New Mexico create a stronger network for New Mexico technology businesses and stimulate economic growth in the science and technology sectors. Specific questions about this challenge should be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cabinet secretaries of the Economic Development Department, Department of Workforce Solutions, Tourism Department, and the small business advisor from the Office of the Governor regarding the state’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic have joined forces to provide the resources that can be found here. to assist companies impacted by the virus.
Working together, they developed a clearinghouse to enhance communications during this critical time. You can submit your business questions, challenges, and feedback through the Business Rapid Response online submission form. All submissions will be reviewed and filtered to the appropriate agency for timely response. Click here to submit.
The Economic Rapid Response Taskforce will continue to focus on recovery, serving the needs of the business community. Moreover, the Office of the Governor is working hand-in-hand with New Mexico’s congressional delegation and New Mexico’s state legislators.
I do have some good news to report. First and foremost, BIO’s 2020 International Convention scheduled for June 8 and 11 in San Diego is still on. NMBio recently received a $2,500 grant from the Feynman Center to help cover the costs of hosting the NM Pavilion. Bioscience firms and organization that have already signed up to be part of the pavilion include, the New Mexico Bioscience Authority, the New Mexico Economic Development Department, Pebble Labs, Sandia Biotech, NTxBio, the City of Rio Rancho, AWS Biopharma Technologies, and Socorro Therapeutics.
As you prepare for the fundraising season this fall, keep the White Hat Life Science Investor Conference top of mind. It will be held in Phoenix in September; 32 bioscience companies from the Southwest will have the opportunity to present to angel investors, family offices, venture capital firms institutional investors from across the country. More than $825 million has been invested in White Hat companies since presenting at the prior three events that were held in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
National COVID-19: Resources
VIP Websites for COVID-19
Business Resource Center
NIH Funding Notices and updates relative to COVID-19
FDA Resources and Updates
New Mexico Department of Health — https://nmhealth.org
New Mexico Coronavirus Hotlines
- 1-855-600-3453 (Health Hotline – for those who feel ill or have questions about their health)
- 1-833-551-0518 (General Information Hotline – for those who have non-health questions about resources and the community)
- 1-866-699-4627 (Hotline for Seniors Citizens – for eligible senior citizens who need assistance with meal or grocery delivery)
- 1-928-871-6868 (Hotline for Seniors Living on the Navajo Nation)
Resources for Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus
Resources for Workers Impacted by Coronavirus
Products and protocols for the Research Use Only Real-Time RT-PCR Identification of 2019-nCoV based on current CDC recommendations
Our Life Science Workflows fully support the discovery phase of vaccine development
Avantor is fully prepared to support the transition of vaccine treatments into production scale bioprocessing
From custom clinical kits, to equipment and ancillaries management, and biorepository services, we can help you address the needs of a rapidly changing clinical trial.
Our refrigerated shippers meet current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines for shipping COVID-19 related specimens.
Air Force COVID-19 – Request for Industry / Academia / Non-Government Information
During this time of great uncertainty, the Air Force and the DoD have been inspired by the response from everyday Americans, universities, non-profits, large businesses, and small businesses who are looking for ways to help with the COVID-19 National Emergency.
This page acts as the entry point for anyone wishing to provide information on ways to help.
If you are in the GOVERNMENT (i.e. DoD, non-DoD Federal, State) and would like to help with the Air Force’s COVID-19 response, please fill out the form at this link instead: https://forms.gle/hkzLWE99oTSDNnwCA
For more information, feel free to send an e-mail to COVID@afwerx.af.mil or to attend one of our upcoming webinars:
Register here to attend the upcoming AF Ventures “Ask Me Anything” call: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eX3k_9RrS4ukT037aGpO1A
Thursday 2 April 1PM ET
Tuesday 7 April 1PM ET
Thursday 9 April 1PM ET
The Gates Foundation and Friends Launch COVID-19 Treatment Accelerator
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a $125 million research fund to support drugmakers and academics in the hunt for effective coronavirus treatments. The Gates Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund contributed $50 million each, and Mastercard kicked in $25 million to launch the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
Right now, there are no vaccines available that can prevent people from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. Nor have any antiviral treatments been clinically proven to stop the virus from replicating in infected patients. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is a $650 million fund currently supporting potential new vaccines, but most studies of experimental vaccines to see if they actually work take about a year.
The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will devote its $125 million in funding to identifying potential treatments for patients who are already infected. These could have a more immediate impact because experimental antivirals can show evidence of efficacy in a matter of days.
The COVID-19 accelerator will help lower the financial risk taken on by companies and academics trying to develop antivirals specifically aimed at SARS-CoV-2. While there’s a strong market for antivirals that tackle endemic viruses such as HIV, hepatitis, and influenza, developing treatments for diseases that may wind up eradicated from the planet isn’t a sustainable business strategy.
At the moment, Gilead Sciences is testing remdesivir, which it developed as an Ebola treatment, to see it if it’s effective against COVID-19, but that company boasts enormous cash flows that the vast majority of drug developers don’t have.
NMBio Member News
Bright Path Labs Accepted into FDA’s Emerging Technology Program
BPL — http://brightpathlabs.com — a provider of continuous flow reactor technology, was accepted into the FDA’s Emerging Technology Program, paving the way for the company to provide its low-cost and scalable technology to the domestic API manufacturing sector.
The Emerging Technology Program was created to help promote the adoption of innovative approaches to pharmaceutical product design and manufacturing and allows private companies the opportunity to discuss, identify, and resolve potential technical and regulatory issues regarding the development and implementation of new technology. The U.S. imports approximately 72% of its APIs used in domestic pharmaceutical production from foreign countries, including China. An overreliance on API imports presents national security, supply chain and public health risks.
In contrast to traditional batch manufacturing techniques used in API production, BPL’s scalable continuous manufacturing technology is designed to be able to send starting materials through an uninterrupted process until the final API product is complete, said BPL’s CEO, Tony Quinones. Although regulators have been in support of continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing for years, industry has been slow to adopt it due to prohibitive costs and business models built on batch processing techniques, as well as scalability challenges with existing continuous flow technologies.
BennuBio Inc. Secures $5 Million In Private Equity From Local and International Investors.
BennuBio — https://www.bennubio.com — will accelerate the marketing of super-fast cell-screening and analysis technology developed originally at the University of New Mexico. Co-Win Ventures, which focuses on early-stage investments in technology and health care companies in the U.S. and China, led the round as a new investor in BennuBio, NMBio’s newest member. Local investors Cottonwood Technology Fund, Tramway Venture Partners and Sun Mountain Capital all contributed to the new funding. Those firms had previously pumped $2 million into the company, which operates out of the WESST Enterprise Center Downtown.
Co-Win’s participation could substantially boost BennuBio’s marketing success, since that firm has extensive experience in the cytometer, or cell meter, industry, said BennuBio President and CEO Steven Graves, a UNM chemical and engineering professor who developed the startup’s technology.“Co-Win has invested heavily in this space,” Graves said. “They’ve backed another flow cytometer company, for example, that built technology to add colors to the cell-screening process to better identify things.”
AgilVax Receives State Grant
AgilVax is a biopharmaceutical company that is creating novel antibody-based therapies to treat cancer patients that lack safe and effective therapeutic options. AgilVax has three development programs to treat many types of cancer. It has raised nearly $10 million to date to fund the development of its therapeutic programs.
The New Mexico Economic Development Department has awarded its first round of Business Start-Up Grants to five science and technology companies, according to Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes. The purpose of the grants is to recognize and assist early stage companies developing a unique product or service, with strong growth potential. Eligible companies must be working within one of five target industry sectors: aerospace, biosciences, cybersecurity, intelligent manufacturing or sustainable and green energy. The Technology Research Collaborative (TRC) Board reviewed 25 applications and chose five that they thought best represented the purpose of the grant. The average grant was $10,000.
Nature’s Toolbox Raises $13 Million; Will Add Employees
Anzu Partners, a nationwide venture capital and private equity company that invests in “breakthrough industrial technologies,” led Nature’s Toobox’s Series A round of nearly $13 million. The round closed earlier this year with 39 investors, according to a Form D filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a report by Albuquerque Business First. Nature’s Toolbox, also known as NTxBio, will use the Series A investment to advance its manufacturing and development platform, discover new pharmaceuticals and create disease-fighting biologicals.
“Current production methods for biologics rely on E. coli enzymes for in vitro methods, or slower and more costly fermentation processes, that are known to be challenged by consistency issues and inefficient in the production of clean, quality products of requisite purity,” said Alex Koglin, PhD, co-founder of NTx. “NTx has developed a completely novel recombinant cell-free biosynthesis platform, that is designed to drive and sustain syntheses for days, with the goal of allowing one person, using a single workstation, to produce enough of any single protein vaccine or biologic for 100 million people in a 30-day period.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines for the influenza virus for the U.S. population take at least six months to produce, requiring manufacturers to begin production long before the flu season begins and before it is known which strain of flu strain will most commonly present itself during peak infection times. Using NTx’s platform, manufacturers could produce large quantities of the flu vaccine in real-time, and specific to the predominant strain as it emerges, eliminating the guesswork that currently exists.
The potential of the technology extends far beyond that of vaccines. Protein-based therapies used to fight cancer and autoimmune disorders have traditionally suffered from the same fundamental manufacturing challenges that burden vaccines. “The tremendous boost to production efficiencies inherent to the NTx process could facilitate the entry of more economically priced biologics and biosimilars,” said Koglin. Nature’s Toolbox also received a $339,000 Job Training Incentive Program award from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.