DoD Grant Boosts Novan’s Cervical Cancer Defense

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A U.S. Department of Defense grant will support Morrisville-based Novan’s efforts to develop a new defense against cervical cancer.

Novan is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that develops nitric oxide therapies. The company announced that the approximately $1.1 million award will support its efforts to treat precancerous lesions of the cervix. The grant comes from the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. 

Novan said it will use the funds to develop its new drug candidate, WH504, which is designed to address cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). This condition is caused by persistent high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Novan hopes to create a disease-altering treatment that can be used at the early stage of HPV to stop its progression to cervical cancer.

The current standard of care for CIN is “watch and wait” or in-office procedures, depending upon the severity of the infection. An estimated 250,000 to one million women are diagnosed with CIN in the United States each year and no minimally invasive therapies are available. Surgical procedures often cause pain and fertility problems and don’t always prevent the condition from reoccurring.

The grant also will gauge the effect of varying concentrations of nitric oxide-based berdazimer sodium – at different treatment durations – against HPV-18 in human cell culture in vitro (laboratory) studies. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and HPV-18 is the second-most-carcinogenic type of HPV. 

Even though effective HPV vaccines are now widely available, the incidence of HPV-induced cervical cancer continues to rise. Nearly 12,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year and more than 4,000 of them will die. HPV vaccines aren’t able to cure preexisting infections, and a majority of adolescents still aren’t inoculated.

Novan said it also is developing a second HPV product candidate, WH602, with the help of a $223,000 Phase 1 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  

Novan was created in 2006 as a spinout from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It develops products that tap the anti-bacterial properties of nitric oxide, a molecule the body produces naturally that’s important for many aspects of health. 

Novan’s NIATRICIL technology deploys the benefits of nitric oxide by amassing the molecule on large polymers and controlling the level of storage, rate of release, and molecule size for targeted delivery. Mark Schoenfisch, Ph.D., who is Peter A. Ornstein distinguished professor of chemistry at UNC, discovered the technology.

Bryant Haskins, NCBiotech Writer
Tue, 09/24/2019 - 11:38