San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics Fuels COVID-19 Research

San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics Fuels COVID-19 Research
Funding Awarded for Three Collaborative COVID-19 Research Projects

Fueling transformative research through collaboration, the San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics (SAPPT) announces the funding of three more collaborative COVID-19 research efforts in San Antonio. SAPPT has awarded more than $600,000 to fund these projects, following the funding of a SARS CoV-2 vaccine project announced in April of this year.

Launched in 2019 to accelerate the process of getting therapies and pharmaceuticals from basic research to people in need, the SAPPT was created by four leading San Antonio research organizations, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI®), Texas Biomedical Research Institute (Texas Biomed), The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). SAPPT uses precision medicine principles to maximize therapy effectiveness and seeks to provide solutions for diverse populations not unlike the unparalleled population diversity of the San Antonio region.

This round of funding is made possible through USAA’s commitment of $1M to organizations combatting COVID-19, including SAPPT. With the formal partnership and collaborative mechanism in place, SAPPT organized and issued a call for proposals and within weeks had selected three projects to fund, each a collaborative effort among the four research institutions with promising early milestones. The San Antonio Area Foundation also committed close to $100,000 to SAPPT to accelerate their collaborative efforts to understand, treat and prevent COVID-19.

Dr. Diako Ebrahimi and his team at Texas Biomed are studying the role of the protein FURIN in COVID-19 and how it is potentially impacting individual responses to the virus. The team is initially studying its role as a link to greater mortality rates for individuals with underlying cardiovascular conditions. This research team is working to identify interactions FURIN has with the virus that could impact mortality rates, with the ultimate goals of being able to develop inhibitors to stop this interaction. Supporting research teams are led by Dr. Jonathan Bohmann, SwRI; Dr. Zhenming Xu and Dr. Dean L. Jr. Kellogg, UT Health San Antonio, and Dr. Stanton McHardy and Dr. Doug Frantz, UTSA.

“While we’re talking about COVID-19 specifically in this research, the implications are much farther reaching,” said Dr. Larry Schlesinger, President and CEO of Texas Biomed. “We can use what we learn here and apply that knowledge to combatting the next novel coronavirus, HIV, and other infectious diseases. This study has a true precision therapy goal, as it aims to understand why certain individuals have greater severity of disease and why specific underlying conditions affect outcomes.”

The research team, led by Dr. Dmitri Ivanov with UT Health San Antonio, is working to identify how COVID-19 evades our innate immune system and blocks our body’s ability to quickly detect the virus and mount an antiviral response. The goal is to identify antiviral compounds either among existing FDA-approved treatments or in vast libraries of drug-like molecules that could effectively combat the ability of the virus to evade our immune defenses. This work would not only broaden our understanding of how viruses interact with human immune systems, it could also accelerate the process of identifying new antiviral treatments in the future. Supporting Dr. Ivanov are teams from the four research institutions including Dr. Jonathan Bohmann, SwRI; Dr. Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Texas Biomed; and Dr. Stanton McHardy, UTSA.

“When San Antonio’s leading researchers come together, great things happen,” said Dr. William Henrich, President of UT Health San Antonio. “Among our four research institutions, we have the talented people needed to drive innovation through collaboration.”

The third of the funded projects is led by Dr. Yogesh Gupta of UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Gupta and his team are studying how the novel coronavirus evades the human immune system, by mimicking the host RNA and growing inside the body. By understanding this process, the goal is to develop novel inhibitors that can block specific pathways that permit the virus to replicate inside the host cell. The innovative drug discovery platform will pave the way in developing a new class of drugs to fight COVID-19, while also preparing to combat emerging coronaviruses in the future. The supporting team assembled from the four research institutions includes: Dr. Jonathan Bohmann and Dr. Hakima Ibaroudene, SwRI; Dr. Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Texas Biomed; and Dr. Stanton McHardy and Dr. Doug Frantz, UTSA.

“This virus causes disease with varied effects, from asymptomatic and mild symptoms for some infected persons to more severe symptoms that require hospitalization and intubation in others.  And of course, in some unfortunate cases, the disease may lead to the patient’s death. In addition, COVID-19 seems to impact some parts of our community harder than others. Part of the SAPPT role is to work to find ways to prevent and treat this disease for all of our community,” said Adam Hamilton, President and CEO of SwRI.

“These three additional projects support a strong foundation of transformative COVID-19 research happening in San Antonio. From better understanding the virus and applying custom therapies to developing drug treatments and vaccines, our partnership is in the unique position to make a real difference in the global impact of this pandemic,” said Dr. Taylor Eighmy, President of UTSA.

All three projects have begun work and will report initial milestones to SAPPT as early as August.

About the San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics

The San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics was established in October 2019 to leverage the unique bioscience capabilities of four prominent San Antonio research institutions — Southwest Research Institute, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, UT Health San Antonio, and The University of Texas at San Antonio. The partnership focuses on creating breakthrough treatments tailored to specific patient populations, while serving as a model to improve health care in San Antonio, statewide and globally. The field of precision therapeutics integrates precision medicine with the drug discovery pathway, including basic research, compound development, formulation, testing, production and clinical trials leading to new FDA-approved treatments.

 Media Contacts:

Liz Tullis, SAPPT, ltullis@sappt.org, 512-587-0607

Lisa Cruz, Texas Biomed, lcruz@txbiomed.org, 210-258-9437

Susan Anasagasti, UT Health San Antonio, anasagasti@uthscsa.edu, 210-567-1764

Courtney Clevenger, UTSA, Courtney.Clevenger@utsa.edu, 210-238-9370

Lisa Peña, Southwest Research Institute, lisa.pena@swri.org, 210-522-2046


Donation for critical COVID-19 medical research from the San Antonio Area Foundation

The San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics (SAPPT) received a $97,141 donation for critical COVID-19 medical research from the San Antonio Area Foundation.

SAPPT was established in October 2019 to leverage the unique bioscience capabilities of four prominent San Antonio research institutions — Southwest Research Institute, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio.

In early May, SAPPT issued a request for funding for COVID-19 research and development to accelerate their collaborative efforts to understand, treat and prevent COVID-19.

The Area Foundation responded to the call. The Area Foundation has a long history of helping in the event of a crisis, emergency or natural disaster.

“Accelerating the race for a COVID-19 vaccine through collaborative research is the pathway to saving lives,” stated Marjie M. French, CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation. “We are delighted to provide this funding for such an important initiative.”

The San Antonio Area Foundation has served as the sole, designated community foundation for the San Antonio area for over half a century, growing to become one of the top 20 foundations in the nation based on asset size. The Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals, managing more than 500 charitable funds valued at over one billion in assets. Coordinating efforts with numerous area nonprofits, the Area Foundation serves as a collaborative leader, connecting donors to address key community issues and investing in our future. Since 1964, over $500 million in scholarships and grants have been awarded to enhance the quality of life in our region. Learn more about our community foundation at saafdn.org.

This grant was funded from a combination of 6 San Antonio Area Foundation funds:

Robert F. and Anna M. Harper Memorial Fund
Beulah M. and Felix J. Katz Memorial Trust
Beta and Melvin Leazar Memorial Fund
Semp Russ Foundation
James and Alberta Otterpohl Fund
Lila G. and Vesey F. Taylor Fund

 

 


SAPPT and VDCOSA Receive $1 Million Gift for COVID-19 Research

The San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics (SAPPT) along with the Vaccine Development Center of San Antonio (VDCOSA) received a $1 million donation for critical COVID-19 medical research and equipment.

USAA and The USAA Foundation, Inc. officials announced the donation as part of an over $6 million gift benefiting local organizations and military families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“San Antonio’s medical research community is on the front lines of developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19,” said Harriet Dominique, USAA senior vice president for corporate responsibility and community affairs. “Working collaboratively, these organizations are seeking to achieve outcomes greater than they could accomplish individually. We are honored to support their efforts to help stop the spread of this deadly disease.”

The current pandemic has further validated the global importance of San Antonio’s collaborative bioscience ecosystem. Southwest Research Institute, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, UT Health San Antonio, and The University of Texas at San Antonio are working together to combat COVID-19 through their established SAPPT and VDCOSA partnerships for research related to diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines.

Launched in 2019 to accelerate drug discovery, SAPPT employs precision medicine principles to maximize therapy effectiveness, accounting for the unparalleled population diversity of the San Antonio region. Established in 2014, VDCOSA supports communication on vaccine research, performs public outreach and education on vaccines with city partners, and funds innovative collaborative research on vaccine development in San Antonio.

“The USAA Foundation, Inc.’s generous contribution will catalyze the collaborative COVID-19 research efforts of the established partnership between these nationally leading organizations,” said Dr. Larry Schlesinger, president and CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute. “This contribution will be a huge boost to the further development of SAPPT, leading efforts in cutting-edge research that will generate new, more effective therapies for our diverse population in San Antonio and beyond.”

The partnerships have streamlined non-profit infrastructures that are designed to vet and begin projects quickly.  The combined large network of institutional labs and teams of researchers with a history of collaborating are uniquely positioned to lead global COVID-19 intervention efforts.