Research Foundation News

March 15, 2017

Sunnylife Pharma Inc. awarded spot in prestigious NIH Innovation Corps training program

INDIANAPOLIS – Sunnylife Pharma Inc., a drug discovery company focused on small molecule therapeutics, announced Wednesday (March 15) that the National Institutes of Health awarded the company a spot in the NIH-sponsored Innovation-Corps, an eight-week entrepreneurial program for teams from biotech companies and other small, medically focused companies.

Based on the highly successful NSF I-Corps™ program, the I-Corps at NIH curriculum is designed to provide scientists from NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-funded companies with real-world, hands-on entrepreneurship training facilitated by domain experts from the biotech sector. It is designed to accelerate the translation of innovation from the lab to the clinic. In the course of the eight-week program, the Sunnylife team will meet with over 100 researchers and drug development experts. The program also includes a $50,000 supplement to support travel meetings with the experts.

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A three-member team from Sunnylife consisting of CEO Dr. Zhijian Lu, CSO and principal investigator of the SBIR grant Dr. Alison M. Strack, and Jonathan Groeper attended the opening classes of the course in early February in Boston.

“Many small biotechs start with expertise only in drug discovery,” Lu said. “This entrepreneurial training by the NIH I-Corps will accelerate our success as it is teaching us to navigate the business and regulatory environment that is a critical component of bringing a drug to market and to those in need.”

The Phase I SBIR award, which allowed the group to be eligible for this course, is a collaborative project with Dr. Elliot Androphy, M.D., Kampen-Norins Professor and Chair, Department of Dermatology at Indiana University School of Medicine.

The goal of the Phase I SBIR grant is to make therapeutic molecules to block the activity of an HPV-specific protein important for its replication, thus preventing continued infection and the potential for development of cancer.

About Sunnylife Pharma: Sunnylife develops small molecules for therapeutic use in the areas of cancer, virology, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit 

Disclaimer: Research reported in this press release is supported by the National Allergy and Infectious Disease Institute of the National Institutes of Health under the award number 1R43AI122541. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. 

Contact: Cynthia Sequin, Purdue Research Foundation, 765-588-3340,

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