A state stem cell agency has awarded nearly $1.7 million to MAX BioPharma Inc. of Santa Monica to develop a treatment for osteoporosis.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced May 24 that it had awarded the pre-clinical biotech firm a $1,689,855 grant.

The funds will enable the six-year-old firm to test a therapy that targets stem cells in a skeleton, creating new bone forming cells and blocking the destruction of bone cells caused by osteoporosis. The disease is especially prevalent in Latinos.

“We’re very happy with this very important support from CIRM,” said Farhad Parhami, founder and chief executive of MAX BioPharma. “It will allow us to finally take some very important steps forward filing with the FDA to begin testing our osteoporosis drug on humans.”

Parhami, a former professor of pathology at the Department of Medicine at UCLA, launched MAX BioPharma in 2012. The startup company was then incubated at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

The privately owned company, now headquartered in Santa Monica, has seven employees developing therapies to combat osteoporosis, pancreatic cancer and fibrosis. It is currently seeking investors for a series A financing.

CIRM, which manages voter-approved stem cell research grants, also announced it had awarded nearly $12 million to UCLA to develop a combination cell-based therapy for non-small cell lung cancer.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.