DURHAM, N.C. — Durham’s Vast Therapeutics, Inc. (Vast), using novel nitric oxide technology developed in a UNC-Chapel Hill lab, has gotten the green light to proceed with its pre-clinical testing.

The company, a subsidiary of KNOW Bio, confirmed that it has completed a Series A deal with a single investor, Shionogi & Co., Ltd. of Japan.

The investment provides Vast with funding to advance its nitric oxide technology invented in the laboratory of Prof. Mark Schoenfisch, Vast’s president.

Dr. Mark Schoenfisch, Vast’s president.

The technology has eradicated, in vitro, more than 100 types of bacteria, including many superbugs, the company says. A major public health concern, superbugs are microorganisms that have developed resistance to antibiotics or other antimicrobials.

Each year, at least 2 million people suffer superbug infections, and those infections kill at least 23,000 each year in the United States alone, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As a result of the investment, Vast will conduct pre-clinical testing and first-in-human clinical safety and efficacy trials over the next two years.

It also expects to add several key positions, “primarily in drug development, while continuing to operate an outsourced model to optimize fixed costs”.

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“Our objective is to completely disrupt the paradigm of treating infections. Our technology can solve a major problem at a time when that problem is creating a dire situation for public health,” Neal Hunter, CEO and chairman of Vast, said in a statement.

“We’ve always realized that it would take more than one company to optimize our technology and Shionogi’s commitment to anti-infectives puts them in a small class of larger pharmaceutical companies who have an ability to develop advanced pharmaceutical products and bring them to market quickly.  The number of significant diseases that can benefit from our respiratory products will create a large market opportunity. ”

Added Dr. Takeshi Shiota, senior vice president of Pharmaceutical Research Division of Shionogi: “We’ve had a keen interest in nitric oxide technology for some time.  In Vast we have found a technology, intellectual property portfolio, and management team that could help us change.”

The companies plan to complete a collaboration agreement in the coming months, as well as license discussions.

Vast Therapeutics, a subsidiary of KNOW Bio, LLC, formerly known as Novoclem Therapeutics, Inc., is an innovative, preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on helping people who suffer from severe respiratory diseases,.

Shionogi & Co., Ltd. is a Japanese major research-driven pharmaceutical company. Its research and development currently target two therapeutic areas: infectious diseases and pain/CNS disorders.