Alumni Startup Abwiz Bio Inc. Receives NIH Grant

Abwiz Bio Inc. was created by Rady School of Management alumni CJ Okumura (MBA '13). The company is a pioneer in the development of novel monoclonal antibody development biotechnology. Recently, Abwiz Bio announced that the company received a $225,000 one-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant supports the development of novel therapeutic reagents for food allergies.

"We are pleased to partner with the La Jolla Institute, which will utilize our state-of-the-art antibody technologies WizAmp for the development of therapeutic antibodies for food allergies, and we are thrilled that it will contribute to the treatment for food allergy patients," Okumura said.

The prevalence of food allergies have been dramatically increasing for the last few decades. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network estimates that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. Signs and symptoms of food allergies range from itching, hives and diarrhea to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

"Currently, there is no cure for this disease thus, novel, innovative therapeutic and preventive means are urgently needed," said Toshiaki Kawakami, M.D., Ph.D. and professor at the La Jolla Institute. "We have accumulated evidence that histamine-releasing factor mediated activation of mast cells and basophils is required for food allergies."

Federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs provide funding to support ideation to commercialization. The highly-competitive programs encourage small businesses to engage in federal research and development efforts that have commercialization potential.

The competitive awards-based program enables small businesses to explore the technical feasibility and prototype development of an idea or concept with the incentive to profit from the commercialization. The company retains ownership of any resulting intellectual property and has the potential for government sole-source contracts during the commercialization phase.

Abwiz Bio Inc is a privately-owned biotech startup lab located in Mira Mesa in San Diego County. The company specializes in monoclonal antibody development with an emphasis on utilizing novel methods to amplify antibody gene production. Toshi Maruyama: M.D., Ph.D.: Founder and COO/CSO invented the unique method to amplify antibody genes, and met Okumura when he was a Rady School student.

"He was really interested in my technology," Maruyama said. "At that time, he was in the Lab to Market class, so the timing was perfect to think about how we could commercialize the technology."

"Maruyama's brilliant technology and my Rady School experience made things happen," Okumura said.

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