COVID-19 Update: U-M Startup Developing COVID-19 Treatment, MGA Webinars Assist Small Manufacturers, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
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graph of daily coronavirus cases in Michigan
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Aug. 24

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Ann Arbor’s Asalyxa Bio Developing Inflammatory Treatment for COVID-19 Patients
Ann Arbor-based Asalyxa Bio, a University of Michigan startup, has secured seed funding to continue development of its anti-inflammatory treatment for a wide range of diseases including COVID-19. It plans to start in-human trials next year.

The company’s lead program is ASX-100, a technology that delivers an anti-inflammatory agent directly to overreactive neutrophils. The arrival of ASX-100 reduces the activity of these immune cells and minimizes harm to the body from the immune overreaction that triggers what’s known as a “cytokine storm.”

Asalyxa Bio was co-founded by U-M scientists and Orange Grove Bio, a New York-based venture operating company.

Lola Eniola-Adefeso, a chemical engineering professor at U-M, and her colleagues found they could improve survival in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) mouse models with ASX-100 — and then began working on combining the original technology with medicine to treat inflammation more effectively. She said Orange Grove has moved quickly to launch the company and boost development.

“Within weeks, we had a full preclinical and early development plan and started manufacturing clinical drug material,” she says. “The broader platform opportunity promises a unique opportunity to treat millions of patients with longstanding, critical needs for novel therapeutic approaches.”

Eniola-Adefeso describes neutrophils as the most common yet least glamorous white blood cells, which only recently have begun to receive significant attention from the academic research and biotech communities. She says their lack of specialization makes them good “first responders” in the body when something is wrong, but trouble comes when they don’t get the signal to stop responding so other cells can step in and repair the damage.

The company’s first set of indications are in acute inflammatory disorders, including ARDS and COVID-induced ARDS. Even before COVID-19, ARDS was affecting about 500,000 Americans a year, with roughly half dying as a result. There are no approved drugs for ARDS, the leading cause of death from the flu, leaving respiratory support as the current standard of care.

Manufacturing Growth Alliance Webinars to Aid State’s Small Makers
Manufacturing Growth Alliance in Lansing is inviting small manufacturers in Michigan to participate in a series of no-cost webinars designed to enhance their new working environments and position them for growth.

The webinars – covering culture, time and priority management, how manage others in a virtual environment, FMLA management, and other topics – are taking place through the end of December. To register or to learn more, visit here.

“We are here to support Michigan’s small manufacturers that are pivoting and seeking to grow within the industry,” says Jennifer Deamud, executive director of MGA. “We have partnered with many organizations to bring Michigan’s manufacturers the best-in-class events that are designed to help maneuver the new challenges that were brought on by the pandemic and push the boundaries of the future.”

New Xfinity Offering to Help Educators Stay Connected this Fall
Comcast says it is offering K-12 teachers and administrators as well as university faculty and staff a way to stay connected as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Eligible faculty, staff, and administrators in the Comcast footprint will receive a $150 Visa prepaid card, which is worth about two months of Internet service, when they sign up for an Xfinity package.

“With learning looking very different this year across the country, we want to help give our educators the connectivity they need to support America’s youth during these unprecedented times,” says Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services at Comcast.

Eligible K-12 teachers and administrators and university faculty and staff can sign up for this offer here. There are no upfront fees and no installation costs. Within a few days of signing up they will receive a self-install kit, and few weeks later a $150 Visa prepaid card with a value of about two months of internet service.  This offer is available to faculty, staff, and administrators who live in households that are not already Xfinity customers through Dec. 31.

For more information, visit here.

Lawrence Tech Professor Earns Search National Science Foundation Grant
Bhubanjyoti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of physics in the Department of Natural Sciences at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, has received a three-year, $135,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to try to study antimatter.

Bhattacharya and a group of LTU undergraduate students will test the validity of newly developed theoretical models of elementary particles. They will examine new data being generated by the world’s particle accelerators, as well as analyze existing data and studies, in the hunt for answers on missing antimatter.

The study also will encourage “recruitment of students from a diverse background” and “will promote an environment that fosters inclusion,” according to the grant proposal, which adds that the students “will receive training in computational thinking and acquire transferable skills that will make them successful in future academic or industry careers.” The grant also includes travel to physics conferences and workshops for Bhattacharya and his students.

Grand Rapids’ Law Firm Acquires Lusk Albertson in Detroit
Grand Rapids-based law firm Miller Johnson has acquired Lusk Albertson, a Detroit law firm focused on serving the education sector. Financial terms were not disclosed for the transaction expected to close Aug. 31.

The existing Lusk Albertson team is joining Miller Johnson’s full-service platforms, creating immediate service lines and expanded resources for clients of both firms. It is expected the firm will add attorneys to the office in their traditional business/corporate, employment and labor, and litigation counsel practice areas. Kevin T. Sutton will lead the Detroit office as office managing member.

Youth Golf in Michigan on the Rise
Youth golf in Michigan is on the rise thanks to the Golf Association of Michigan Foundation’s Youth on Course program.

The program, which had 4,273 members in 2019, has grown to 6,154 so far in 2020 with more than 18,000 rounds played, compared to 9,983 a year ago.

YOC allows junior golfers ages 6-18 to register for the program for $5, which in turn gives them access to participating courses where they can play for $5 or less per round.

The GAM Foundation reimbursed participating courses $69,898 last year. Reimbursements through July 2020 are $134,762.

The GAM Foundation is partnering with other youth golf organizations, such as TGA Premier Sports, The First Tee, and Midnight Golf, to introduce young people to the game of golf.

Pope Francis Center Hosting Fundraising Campaign
The Pope Francis Center, a day center serving Detroit’s homeless, is hosting its 2020 THRIVE Change for Change crowdfunding campaign, through a series of fundraising events.

The campaign kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. with Stretch at Sunset Yoga in Campus Martius Park, led by Kelsey Joseph. Those interested in the yoga event or any of the other campaign activities can register here.

The funds raised will help cover the costs of the center’s $50,000 added expense to provide its guests with quarters and detergent for their recently established laundry service program, through a partnership with Lafayette Laundry.

Other events include Cooking with Clergy, which will take place on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m., and an Off-Road Rally, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.

In addition to the THRIVE events, the Pope Francis Center also is hosting a Change Challenge. Participants are invited to raise funds and awareness for the nonprofit over a 30-day timespan, through 30 miles of outdoor activities, like biking, running, walking, running, and swimming. To register for the Change Challenge, visit here.

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