DURHAM – EmitBio™, a Durham-based biotechnology company operating as a subsidiary of KNOW Bio, has been issued a new U.S. patent that protects the company’s novel COVID-19 treatment: light.

“In my opinion, we have the best treatment option versus any other available today, said Neal Hunter, CEO of KNOW Bio and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors at EmitBio Inc.  “This is supported by over 10,000 invitro experiments and multiple human trials including safety and efficacy.”

The company announced results earlier this year from an in vitro neutralization study of the Delta variant of the SARS-VoV-2 virus in human airway tissue.  That study found that the light technology eliminated 99.99% of the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and that there was no damage to healthy tissue following three days of twice-daily dosage. 

The EmitBio patent will grant the company exclusive rights through the year 2040, Hunter confirmed to WRAL TechWire.  “This is significant because it protects our existing device and future devices in the pipeline,” Hunter said.  “This helps validate our extensive proprietary platform to fight respiratory disease.”

EmitBio’s technology focuses on delivery of light to stimulate, heal, and protect the human body.  The company reported in February 2021 that it had positive clinical trial results for an initial test of its investigational handheld rechargeable-battery-operated device in treating 31 patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Durham firm says its light technology can ‘inactivate’ COVID-19 variants

WRAL TechWire previously reported that the device works like a flashlight for the throat.  EmitBio developed the device use at home, with a doctor’s prescription.  It works by shining targeted wavelengths of safe, visible LED light which bathes the back of the throat with a form of solid-state LED light that can get rid of most of the virus in people with mild to moderate respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The patent, U.S. Patent 11,147,984, was issued less than a year after the application was filed, according to the company, and was approved through the USPTO’s COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program, said John Demos, general counsel for EmitBio.  The company noted that the newly granted patent “broadly covers oral devices using light to limit or eliminate a vast array of pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” in a statement sent to WRAL TechWire.

With the patent, and the need for treating patients with COVID-19, the company may be prepared to scale quickly.

That’s because the EmitBio device is “a precision opto-electronic device” containing fewer components than a cell phone, of which there were 1.5 billion manufactured in 2020, said Hunter.  “Scale-up could be on a very fast pace, assuming there aren’t critical component shortages, which should be temporary if they currently exist,” Hunter said.

Hunter noted that the company expects to have access to funding “on par with what so many antibody companies have enjoyed from the federal government.”  Accessing this level of funding, said Hunter, “would easily allow us to extend our product line and scale production.”

“I believe that when so much has been discussed about funding new therapeutics at the federal level, our home-use, variant agnostic and very safe treatment option should be at the top of the list,” said Hunter.  technology platform also has the ability to treat influenza and other pathogens, plus it has the potential to be a lower per-treatment cost than typical pharma solutions.”

Still, said Hunter, the company is in the process of raising “what will probably be our last round of local capital which will come from existing and new investors.”

Can light stop COVID-19? Positive clinical trial boosts Durham firm’s efforts

A pathway forward for treating COVID-19 with safe, visible light

The company also announced the publication of a manuscript, “Visible blue light inhibits infection and replication of SARS-CoV-2 at doses that are well-tolerated by human respiratory tissue,” in the journal Scientific Reports.  The company noted in its statement that the peer-reviewed manuscript describes, in detail, the process by which safe, visible light “can inhibit coronavirus replication in human tissue without damage to the tissue.”

A spokesperson for the company told WRAL TechWire that everyone diagnosed with and everyone who contracts COVID-19 deserves treatment for the illness.

There’s important application of alternative, effective treatments, the spokesperson noted.  For respiratory diseases like coronaviruses, the manuscript articulates a process and a pathway that may expand the current portfolio of SARS-CoV-2 intervention strategies beyond the conventional approaches of vaccine, antibody, and antiviral therapeutics, the company spokesperson said.

“Representing just a fraction of EmitBio’s already completed development program, the new fundamental patent and seminal Scientific Reports manuscript together show how light and life science can be combined to provide powerful solutions to seemingly intractable healthcare challenges,” said Dave Emerson, CEO, EmitBio, in a statement.

“Our proprietary biotechnology platform enables a series of safe, personalized treatments for major disease areas such as respiratory infections and airway inflammation,” Emerson added.  “Rapid deployment of this new treatment modality has the promise to not only change the trajectory of the current COVID-19 pandemic but also protect against future microbial threats.”

EmitBio’s parent company, KNOW Bio, was created in 2015 as a spinoff of drug company Novan.  KNOW Bio said in September 2020 that it had demonstrated the “first definitive evidence” that nitric oxide can fight the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

KNOW Bio raised $2.6 million from 49 investors in 2017 and added another $4.68 million in 2018, and also closed $30 million in investment capital from Reedy Creek Investments, the investment arm of SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight.