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Fauna Bio Gets $373K NIH Grant to Study Animal Genomes for Potential Drug Targets

NEW YORK – Fauna Bio said on Thursday that it has received a $373,434 grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to investigate new ways to treat human diseases based on the genetic makeup of certain animals.

According to a description of the one-year grant, the company plans to study animal adaptations for disease resistance, particularly in hibernating mammals, to see if they contain novel biological pathways that could be exploited to counteract human diseases.

Hibernating animals exhibit phenotypes that mirror diseases such as ischemia-reperfusion injury, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, obesity, and diabetes, but they're able to avoid or reverse these pathologies, the company said. Fauna aims to analyze hibernation gene networks for potential therapeutic targets and validate these across multiple species.

In order to obtain enough data for the phenotypes of interest, the company said it has established a collaboration with the Monarch Initiative, a large-scale bioinformatics web resource, to curate phenotypes in currently underutilized species. This grant is specifically focused on identifying novel therapeutic targets for ischemia-reperfusion injury, but Fauna said it intends to develop a genomics discovery platform centered on hibernating animals for Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, obesity, and diabetes in the long term.

Fauna noted that its platform has already identified four novel genes in hibernating animals that are key to heart protection and recovery from cardiac events.

"Given that we share 90 percent of our genes with other mammals, it is important to look outside our own species to find new answers for the betterment of human health," Fauna CEO Ashley Zehnder said in a statement. "This grant from the NIH means that they see a direct link between the genes of humans and animals, and its value for developing meaningful therapeutics for a variety of complex diseases currently with no viable treatment options."