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Biotech Co. Gets $2M Grant for Parkinson's Treatment
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Shares of SQZ Biotechnologies Co. traded 17% higher after the company reported that it has been awarded a $2 million grant from the NIH to develop a new cell replacement therapy for use in treating Parkinson's disease.

Clinical-stage biotechnology company SQZ Biotechnologies Co. (SQZ:NYSE), which utilizes its Cell Squeeze® technology to develop transformative cell therapies for multiple therapeutic areas including cancer, infectious diseases and other serious conditions, yesterday announced that "it has been awarded a $2 million SBIR Phase II grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health."

The company reported that it received the award after being selected through a competitive process. The firm explained that "the two-year grant will support the development of cell engineering methods that are designed to reprogram a patient's own immune cells directly into dopamine-producing neurons, a potential novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of Parkinson's disease."

SQZ Biotechnologies' VP and Head of Exploratory Research Jonathan Gilbert, Ph.D. commented, "Directly creating dopamine-producing neurons by reprogramming a patient's own immune cells would be a major breakthrough and could support a new Parkinson's disease treatment paradigm…Unlike alternative allogeneic cell replacement approaches in development for Parkinson's disease, by using a patient's own cells, treatment might not require chronic immunosuppression."

"Moreover, in altering cell fate with RNA-based cell engineering methods, no changes to the genome are likely to occur that could carry long-term risks," Dr. Gilbert added.

The company mentioned that the ability to reprogram a patient's cells for the purposes of replacing lost or diseased cells offers significant therapeutic potential. The firm noted that in addition for uses in the creation of therapeutic treatments for Parkinson's Disease, cell replacement therapies exhibit excellent prospects for use in other applications including Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes.

The company stated that until recently, traditional inefficient, costly, and time-consuming cell reprogramming methodologies stymied advancements in clinical studies thus producing very limited benefits to patients.

The firm advised that it presented preclinical data at the 2021 International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meeting that demonstrated that "its proprietary Cell Squeeze® technology can be used to generate neurons from induced human pluripotent stem cells through the delivery of an mRNA encoding for a fate-specifying transcription factor."

SQZ Biotechnologies is a clinical-stage biotechnology firm based in Watertown, Mass. The company endeavors to unlock the full potential of cell therapies that can be used to treat patients afflicted with autoimmune and infectious diseases. The company listed that "its proprietary Cell Squeeze® technology offers the unique ability to deliver multiple biological materials into many cell types to engineer what we believe can be a broad range of potential therapeutics." The firm points out that it can significantly decrease production timelines to less than 24 hours which can serve to eliminate preconditioning and reduce the length of patient hospital stays. The firm stated that its first therapeutic applications are geared towards generating target-specific immune responses to treat solid tumors, infectious diseases, and autoimmune diseases.

The company explains on its website that its proprietary methods provide it with the capability "to physically squeeze cells at high speeds through a microfluidic chip, temporarily opening the cell membrane and enabling biologic material of interest, or cargo, to diffuse into the cell before the membrane reseals."

SQZ Biotech began the day with a market cap of around $134.0 million with approximately 28.15 million shares outstanding and a short interest of about 5.5%. SQZ shares opened more than 4% higher today at $4.97 (+$0.21, +4.41%) over yesterday's $4.76 closing price. The stock has traded today between $4.78 and $5.63 per share and is currently trading at $5.58 (+$0.82, +17.23%).


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