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Optivia Biotechnology Inc. Awarded $1.85 Million SBIR Grant to Build Comprehensive Platform for Assessing Dangerous Drug-Drug Interactions

4/5/2011 10:45:33 AM

MENLO PARK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Optivia Biotechnology Inc., a pioneer in the field of transporter biology and leading provider of in vitro transporter assay services, has received a $1.85 million federal grant to determine the precise mechanisms that underlie certain drug-to-drug interactions, in an effort to help improve medication safety.

The Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, will fund development of a broad set of assays and databases to identify the most clinically significant drug-drug interactions (DDIs) that involve membrane transporters – the proteins that transport a drug across the cell membrane and either enable or block its effectiveness.

“This research will lay the foundation for Optivia and our collaborators to build the most comprehensive transporter-biology platform available, including standardized in vitro assays, in silico models and an extensive knowledge base, to better understand, predict and alleviate transporter-mediated adverse drug reactions,” said Yong Huang, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Optivia Biotechnology.

The grant includes $367,000 to fund research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which will help to profile 2,000 prescription drugs against key transporters in the liver and kidneys. This will be the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the interaction between prescription drugs and membrane transporters, according to Kathleen Giacomini, Ph.D., a co-principal investigator on the grant and professor and co-chair of the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

“Many transporters are known to influence drug levels, but very little is currently known about transporter-related drug interactions,” Dr. Giacomini said. “This grant will enable us to break new ground in transporter-biology research and ultimately help identify which medications could cause transporter-related drug interactions and lead to adverse reactions when taken with other drugs.”

The research could have an immediate impact on improving the understanding and management of drug safety, she said, which is a critical topic for both the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA. It also is a clear example of UCSF’s efforts to translate science into application. The research will also utilize Optivia’s novel Opti-ExpressionTM technology to develop more than 50 assays for key human and rat transporters. Many of these were identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a 2006 draft guidance that outlined a framework for evaluating transporter-mediated DDIs. However, suitable experimental assays for most of these transporters are not available.

“We are very pleased with both the scientific and commercial success of the Phase I research. Based on our demonstrated ability to develop transporter assays rapidly, we are confident about developing assays for more transporters with high pharmacological significance,” said Dr. Huang, “These assays will be of great value to the pharmaceutical industry and academic researchers for the study of DDIs, drug safety, early pharmacokinetics and pharmacology.” About Transporter Proteins

Transporters are a class of 300 to 400 membrane proteins that act as nature’s “gatekeepers,” facilitating the movement of drugs and other substances into and out of cells. As such, transporters play a vital role in drug response and safety. The importance of transporters to drug safety is gaining increased attention, aided by a recent report from the International Transporter Consortium (“Membrane Transporters in Drug Development,” Nature Reviews-Drug Discovery, March 2010), which identified the most clinically significant transporter-related DDIs.

About Optivia Biotechnology

Based in Menlo Park, CA, Optivia Biotechnology, Inc. is a leader in transporter biology research and transporter assay services. Optivia develops and provides an array of transporter assays, database and models to help in the discovery and development of drugs with improved safety and efficacy. For more information, visit

About the University of California, San Francisco

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For more information, visit


Optivia Biotechnology Inc.

Peter Milner, M.D., FACC,

Executive Vice President for Corporate Development, 408-802-9619


UCSF News Office

Kristen Bole, 415-502-6397


CLM Communications (Optivia Media Relations)

Carole Melis, 650-342-5686

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