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Purdue startup looking to fight COVID-19

Joanne Zhang is the co-founder of Phytoption. (photo courtesy of Purdue University)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A startup in the Purdue Research Park says it is looking for partners to help advance the development of antiviral therapeutics it says could fight against COVID-19 and other viral diseases. The university says Phytoption LLC has developed nanotechnology that “significantly boosts” drug solubility and was used in the development of a drug used to treat tapeworms.

The soluble niclosamide drug, according to Phytopion, was also found to have a “broad-spectrum antiviral effect” against a number of virus, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the university says the drug has limited potential because of its difficult to dissolve and for patients to absorb.

Phytoption has received funding from the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund, which was founded by serial entrepreneur Steve Kirsch to fund outpatient clinical trials of repurposed drugs to treat the disease. The company says it has conducted key studies with scientists at the University of Chicago the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology, and Infectious Disease, and the Bindley Bioscience Center at Purdue.

“Our oral formulation has shown outstanding bioavailability and prolonged release of niclosamide that has not been achieved by any other known technology,” said Yuan Yao, a professor of food science at Purdue.

Phytoption says it is looking for further funding and partnerships to continue its research with hopes of bringing a treatment to market.

The company in 2015 won the BioCrossroads New Venture Competition for its efforts to convert insoluble food ingredients into soluble. At the time, the company said it was also targeting the pharmaceutical industry with its technology. The company has raised $1.3 million in funding to date, according to the Purdue Foundry.