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Mucommune LLC has been awarded over $3 million in five separate federal grants over the past several months to advance its muco-trapping antibody technology.

The company was launched in 2016 by Sam Lai, Ph.D., an associate professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

The muco-trapping antibody technology advanced by Mucommune is based on engineering the Fc region of IgG antibodies to interact with mucins. Tuning the Fc region to combine with mucins enables antibodies to immobilize viral and bacterial pathogens in different mucosal secretions, including respiratory airways, GI tract and female reproductive tract. Once the pathogens are trapped in the mucus, they can be rapidly eliminated, blocking infections.

The development of muco-trapping antibody technology has been supported in part by the Eshelman Institute for Innovation. The Institute was created in 2014 by $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman, Pharm.D., for the purpose of providing funding for bold, transformative ideas and stimulate commercialization of intellectual property and entrepreneurial development for students, faculty and staff at the School.

Until recently, Mucommune resided in the Eshelman Institute for Innovation MicroIncubator.

Advancing new contraceptive technologies

Lai’s muco-trapping antibody technology is also involved in the development of groundbreaking non-hormonal contraceptives.

Both Mucommune and the Lai lab are part of the second active contraceptive research center in the country, along with researchers at Boston University, industry partners at Kentucky BioProcessing and Mapp Biopharmaceutical and clinical partners in CONRAD and Fenway Health.

The consortium is seeking to advance an antibody that could block sperm from reaching the egg by trapping it in cervicovaginal mucus. Among the antibody candidates to be evaluated include those developed by the Lai lab.

The group recently received a $7.6 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Their project, which will culminate in two Phase I studies, will be the first time antibodies are evaluated for contraception in clinical trials globally, said Lai.

To focus on its preclinical program in female reproductive health, Mucommune has spun off its respiratory program to Inhalon Biopharma, Inc. Inhalon has secured initial investments from Breakout Labs, a fund that supports scientist-entrepreneurs as they transition their technologies out of the lab and into the market. The funding will enable Inhalon to pursue critical large animal studies.

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