Novan Therapeutics, a Durham company that is developing nitric oxide-based skin therapies, has been awarded a $7.8 million government contract to develop a treatment for thermal burns.
The two-year contract is with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Novan will develop a countermeasure to treat thermal burns caused by a bioterrorism attack or nuclear device.
Nathan Stasko, Novan’s president and co-founder, said the contract is a validation of the promise that the company’s technology has shown for treating skin diseases and wounds.
“This is by far the largest statement about the team, about the technology, its readiness to develop the medical countermeasure, and also about nitric oxide and its future in wound care,” he said.
Nitric oxide is a highly reactive molecule that has been declared a “miracle molecule” by some for its potential health benefits. Novan’s technology allows for the delivery of nitric oxide in controlled amounts for the treatment of different skin diseases and injuries.
Stasko said Novan is expecting to add numerous employees to its 25-person staff as a result of the BARDA contract.
Novan is the fourth company with operations in the Triangle to receive a grant from the authority in recent years.
Durham drug-development company Chimerix received a $24.8 million contract in 2011 to develop a smallpox treatment that could be used against a bioterrorism attack. Earlier this year, Chapel Hill drug developer Cempra Pharmaceuticals was awarded $58 million from BARDA to develop its promising antibiotic treatment. And GlaxoSmithKline, which has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, could receive as much as $200 million from the authority to support the development of antibiotics to fight antibiotic resistance and bioterrorism.
Novan began operations in January 2008 and has raised $20 million in private equity funding from individuals. The company has no drugs on the market but is conducting Phase 2 clinical trials on a nitric oxide-based therapy for acne.
Stasko said applying Novan’s technology to the treatment of wounds is a natural extension from dermatology applications. He said the data generated from the BARDA contract will ultimately benefit the entire market for such therapies.
“It’s focused on burns today, but all of that data we generate on healing and all the safety and efficacy data really transcends into the broader field of regenerative medicine,” he said. “And advanced wound care is a multibillion-dollar market right now.”