RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – NightHawk Biosciences has announced plans to build a new advanced biosafety level 2 laboratory that will add biodefense and infectious disease capabilities at its Morrisville headquarters site.
Level 2 laboratories work with agents that pose a moderate potential hazard to employees and the environment and require specific training in the handling of disease-causing agents.
NightHawk – formerly Heat Biologics – is a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company that develops new drugs from discovery through commercialization. It specializes in disease-fighting therapies that activate patients’ immune systems against cancer and other diseases, and in biodefense biopharmaceuticals.
“Given the unprecedented global biological threats facing our nation, both natural and man-made, this new state-of-the-art BSL-2 laboratory will enable us to work with select attenuated agents such as anthrax and botulinum toxins, tularemia, monkeypox and other priority DOD agents and pathogens of concern,” said company CEO Jeff Wolf. “The buildout of this facility follows our acquisition of biodefense company Elusys Therapeutics and represents the next stage in our efforts to develop medical countermeasures to protect the population against emerging biothreats.”
Elusys and its Anthim monoclonal antibody that neutralizes the anthrax toxin were acquired by Heat Biologics in December 2021. Heat changed its name to NightHawk in May of this year, it said, to better reflect its recent growth and evolution. It focuses on fast and efficient drug development through its various U.S.-based subsidiaries. They include SkunkWorx Bio, Pelican Therapeutics, Scorpion Biological Services, Elusys Therapeutics and Heat Biologics.
NightHawk operates three technology platforms:
- gp96 that uses the immune properties of heat shock protein gp96 to stimulate an immune system response against cancer and infectious diseases;
- TNFRSF25, which targets the T cell co-stimulator TNFRSF25 to regulate inflammation and immunosuppression; and
- RapidVax, a customizable vaccine platform that prompts immunological memory response to combat emerging biological threats.
Matthew M. Seavey, Ph.D., NightHawk’s vice president of research, said the design of the new facility incorporates the strict safety measures required for BSL-2 classification. He said the company also has increased its vivarium footprint so that it can generate the animal data it needs to evaluate the effectiveness, immune response and safety of its therapeutics against bacterial and viral disease-causing microorganisms.
NightHawk did not provide the size of the new lab or whether it will mean new jobs for the Research Triangle area.
NightHawk predecessor company Heat Biologics is a 2008 University of Miami spinout. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center was instrumental in encouraging company CEO Wolf to relocate the fledging business to the state in 2011, and in supporting it when it arrived.
NCBiotech provided Heat’s first source of funding – a $225,000 Strategic Growth Loan – and made temporary office space available in the Center’s Landing Pad. It granted a $3,000 industrial intern award in 2012 to support the company’s initial public stock offering.
Heat moved its operations to Morrisville in 2019. NightHawk currently is listed as having about 49 employees.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center