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HDT Bio CEO Steve Reed. (HDT Bio Photo)

Seattle startup HDT Bio will develop a nasal spray designed to counteract a wide range of respiratory viruses with a nearly $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Army.

“We hope to address not only disease progression, but transmission,” chief operating officer Christopher Pirie told GeekWire.

HDT Bio’s platform involves a proprietary nanoparticle that delivers an attached RNA into cells. The technology is being harnessed to develop cancer treatments and vaccines. A COVID-19 RNA vaccine based on the company’s tech was recently approved in India.

HDT’s nasal spray will be based on the same approach. The spray will consist of a nanoparticle attached to a special RNA derived from the Hepatitis C virus.

The RNA was developed by University of Washington immunology professor Michael Gale, who co-founded the company in 2019 with Pirie, chief scientific officer Darrick Carter, UW professor André Lieber, and immunologist and biotech veteran Steve Reed, who serves as CEO.

The “RIG-I activating RNA” triggers a broad anti-viral response when it enters the body. Company studies in animals show that the RNA prevents replication of the influenza A and COVID-19 viruses. In cell studies, the RNA suppresses other respiratory viruses such as common cold viruses.

The company is slated to perform safety and potency studies and anticipates that clinical trials could begin in 2025.

The spray “could become part of a soldier’s kit, allowing for rapid response to deadly viral pathogens,” said Reed in a statement. It could also potentially be used in the civilian population to prevent or treat disease.

The grant comes on the heels of a $1.5 million small business grant to HDT Bio from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop RNA vaccines and therapeutics against enterovirus D68. That virus causes a severe neurological condition that mainly affects young children.

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