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Fauna Bio Receives Grant From the National Institutes of Health to Advance Its Drug Repurposing Platform

BERKELEY, Calif., Oct. 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Fauna Bio Inc., a biotechnology company leveraging the science of evolution and comparative genomics to discover new treatments for human diseases, announced that it has been awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Office of Research and Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the development of its integrated genomics platform and testing of repurposed drug candidates.

The grant allows Fauna Bio to extend its discovery platform with sequencing data from its biobank of 13-lined ground squirrel tissues, which is the species that has emerged as the model hibernator. Fauna Bio will then integrate existing publicly available genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data for this species.

Additionally, they will analyze evolutionarily accelerated genes in the improved dataset. Using this unified platform, Fauna Bio will identify genes associated with timepoints at which ground squirrels are protected from heart and brain damage. Then the team will conduct pathway analyses and in-silico drug screening to generate a list of candidate compounds predicted to protect humans from the effects of diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

"We are very excited to have received this grant from the NIH SBIR program as it validates our scientific approach and demonstrates the broad use potential of the technology we are building," said Dr. Ashley Zehnder, CEO and co-founder of Fauna Bio. "Our work with ORIP is well-aligned as their mission is focused on building models that can be applied to multiple areas of human health."

Paul Buckmaster, Stanford Professor of Comparative Medicine and Neurology also commented, stating that "ORIP provides critically needed support of medical research by funding development of animal models of disease, like 13-lined ground squirrels, and by funding research training for veterinarian-scientists." Dr. Buckmaster oversees both the T32 and T35 training programs for veterinarians and veterinary students at Stanford. Dr. Zehnder's graduate training at Stanford was supported by a T32 grant.

Zehnder co-founded the company with Drs. Goodman and Grabek, all three of whom were postdoctoral fellows in the lab of Carlos Bustamante, Professor of Biomedical Data Science at Stanford University. Prior to starting Fauna Bio, Goodman's work focused on comparative genomics, while Grabek's research focused on the functional genomics of the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) and its implications for human health.

"The Fauna team has the perfect combination of expertise to build on rich datasets from non-traditional species and demonstrate their power for drug discovery," states Bustmante (a current Fauna advisor). "The NIH is recognizing the importance of animal genomics data as critical to understanding not only what is truly functional in the human genome, but also for developing novel therapies. This grant is a key step in the process of building Fauna's platform that can then extend into multiple areas of novel therapeutics."

About Fauna Bio
Fauna Bio is developing new ways to treat human diseases, such as heart disease and neurodegenerative disease, by adopting mechanisms animals have developed for traits such as hibernation and deep-diving. Founded by three scientists who have intimate knowledge of the best science and resources form the field of non-model organisms, Fauna Bio leverages data from hundreds of species in order to help develop pre-clinical and early clinical testing for new therapeutics targeting human diseases. To learn more about Fauna Bio, visit

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