Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. Friday announced that it has received an Advanced Technology Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to assist Sorrento in its programs to generate and develop novel antibody therapeutics and vaccines to against Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections.

Phase I of the grant is for $300,000 annually for two years, with the possibility of phase II funding of $1 million per year for up to three years thereafter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005 about 94,000 serious staph infections occurred in the U.S., resulting in more than 19,000 deaths from MRSA (caused by staph bacteria) infections.

In the press release, Sorrento noted that a 2009 study from Duke University Medical Center found that MRSA infections associated with surgery generated a 35-fold increased risk of hospital readmission and a 7-fold increased risk of death. In 2007 alone, U.S. sales of antibiotics to treat MRSA were estimated at more than $1 billion.

“It is clear that the NIH is highly motivated to fund novel approaches to tackling the serious healthcare burden of MRSA. We believe our program to develop potential vaccines and antibody therapeutics against MRSA holds great clinical promise because of the high morbidity and mortality caused by this pathogen and the limited treatment options available today,” Schuh, stated in the press release

In January Sorrento obtained an exclusive license to The Scripps Research Institute’s quorum quenching technology, which is the base for Sorrento’s MRSA program.

“We believe that the use of quorum sensing signal molecules as targets for the development of vaccines and antibody therapeutics using our proprietary technology platform is a novel and promising approach to combat a serious public health issue. We look forward to working with our colleagues at The Scripps Research Institute and Montana State University in developing novel antibody therapeutics and vaccines against MRSA,” said Charlie Rodi, Ph.D., vice president of Research and Development at Sorrento and the principal investigator on the grant.

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