From grassroots to first-in-class, Serpin Pharma is making tremendous strides in the biotech industry.
The Manassas-based company “graduates” from the Prince William Science Accelerator into a new cutting-edge facility where they will expand clinical research on their COVID-19 drug.
“When we started, we were utterly virtual,” said Dr. Cohava Gelber, Chief Executive Officer, Serpin Pharma. “We had offices in coffee shops and Barnes & Noble in Manassas, and different places until we were able to sublet research labs from George Mason University (GMU).”
Eventually Serpin Pharma transitioned into the Prince William Science Accelerator – a premier life science incubation facility that fosters growth for small and mid-sized startups.
The Prince William Science Accelerator, located at Innovation Park, is anchored by GMU’s Science and Technology campus and a cluster of biotech companies. The hub is fueled by collaborations between private industry and university scientists who are working together to address many global challenges.
In the fight against COVID-19, Serpin Pharma developed an exciting new drug, SP16, that has been approved by the FDA to treat hospitalized patients.
“The drug is a small piece of a generic drug that is derived from a molecule that we have in our body,” said Dr. Gelber. “It is an acute-phase protein that helps the body recover from an injury, trauma, infection or illness. What we’ve done is make it 300 times more potent, less expensive and easy to make.”
SP16 is in the experimental stages and according to Dr. Gelber the results have been good.
“By all measures of biomarkers, we have shown that our drug is effective, very well tolerated and as far as we can see, it is safe,” Dr. Gelber said. The next stage is Phase 3 clinical trial before the drug hits the market.
As Serpin Pharma expands its research the company has recruited many scientists from GMU and other parts of the United States. Dr. Gelber attributes the company’s growth to the support of Prince William County and the Commonwealth. The advice she offered to small and growing companies in the bioscience industry, is “stay locally.”
Increased commute times can be a huge burden, said Dr. Gelber. Prince William County is in close proximity to the FDA, the NIH, Dulles Airport and iNova, which is critical for collaborations.
“It’s not just infrastructure the county provides, it’s the business development, marketing, and funding that nurtures a supportive ecosystem,” Dr. Gelber said. “Using local resources as we have enjoyed both from Prince William County Economic Development and Virginia, has been really good to us and awarded us competitive grants.”