BioAdvance Greenhouse invests in Novira Therapeutics' antiviral drug technology

8 April 2009

BioAdvance, the Biotechnology Greenhouse Corporation of Southeastern Pennsylvania, has announced a $550,000 seed-stage investment in Novira Therapeutics, Inc., an emerging life sciences company in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Novira is focused on the discovery and development of first-in-class antiviral therapeutics. Based on emerging biology and proprietary insights on virus-host interactions, the company is working to develop novel small-molecule drugs against medically-important viral targets.

The company was founded by Ali Munawar, a Harvard trained scientist who developed and acquired intellectual property demonstrating the applicability of Novira’s scientific platform in multiple viruses.

“Viruses have evolved to rely on and exploit the cells that they infect. Disabling the ability of viral proteins to ‘hijack’ cellular elements represents a unique and effective means of therapeutic intervention,” said Mr Munawar, adding, “This investment from BioAdvance will position Novira to expand its intellectual property and advance its drug discovery projects targeting a range of viral indications that represent significant commercial opportunities.”

BioAdvance funding also will be used to expand the company’s management team. Osvaldo Flores, PhD, a former research executive from Merck & Co., has joined the company as chief scientific officer. Dr Flores brings more than 16 years of drug discovery and development experience and has advanced more than 10 drug candidates from target identification/validation to various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development.

“Novira will soon emerge as a leader in the development of transforming antiviral therapies by combining novel science and innovative drug discovery platforms to rapidly identify and advance drug candidates,” said Dr. Flores.

Novira’s scientific team also includes George D. Hartman, PhD, a world renowned medicinal chemist who is a former research executive from Merck & Co.

“It is a great privilege to attract somebody with the stature and experience of Dr Hartman to join our team — this is an important step towards the goal of building a company with a culture that combines the rigor and know-how of Big Pharma with innovative, fast paced and entrepreneurial mind-set that is required to succeed in this exciting, competitive drug development business,” added Dr Flores.

“We selected Novira for investment based on the team and its novel scientific strategy, which allows a pipeline of new therapies to treat different kinds of viruses to be progressed in a capital efficient way,” said Barbara S. Schilberg, managing director and CEO of BioAdvance. “We are confident that Novira’s multidisciplinary team will make a significant contribution to improving the lives of patients in an area of continuing need.”

Novira also is one of 104 recipients (out of 4,000 applicants) to be awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under its Grand Challenges Explorations program. The company will use the funding to develop novel treatments for HIV.

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