Four Entrepreneurs Begin MassCONNECT Mentoring

July 10, 2012

Jones Day sponsors latest MassBio cycle to spur commercialization & company creation

July 10, 2012 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) — Entrepreneurs working on promising treatments for prostate tumors, chronic hepatitis B, edema and wound care have been chosen to learn from biotech pros in the latest round of MassCONNECT.

These four ideas were chosen for inclusion in MassCONNECT, MassBio’s entrepreneur mentorship program, which kicked off its second 2012 cycle last month. These scientist-entrepreneurs—chosen for their innovative ideas in drug discovery, development or delivery—are paired with seasoned biotechnology professionals for evaluation and advice as they work toward raising capital and building business plans for their start-ups.

“Brilliant, entrepreneurial scientific founders rising through Massachusetts' unique life sciences ecosystem can often communicate their technology with enthusiasm, but their training rarely prepares them for the market and investor perspectives needed to turn their idea into reality," said John Tagliamonte, SVP of Corporate Development at Selventa and a MassCONNECT mentor. “MassCONNECT's free service pairs business, product development, intellectual property and commercial leaders plus sharp MBA students with entrepreneurs to help formulate strategy, define a business model, identify market needs and prepare for financing their dreams."

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

BINOTECH LABS, INC.    Andrew Makarovskiy

The Core Technology is based on the proprietary method to develop monoclonal antibodies specific to the cell surface markers expressed by the stem cells in tumors. This unique platform technology proved successful in producing new markers to both normal and tumor prostate stem cells and can be applied similarly to other human tissues. Currently available antibodies are the cornerstone for the development of curative treatments for tumors. The first panel of stem cell specific antibodies was developed to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and malignant prostate tumors (Cancer).

FRONTIERA THERAPEUTICS     Usamah S. Kayyali, PhD, MPH, DABT

Frontiera Therapeutics is focused on developing drugs for vascular leak and edema. Our first product: MK2-activating peptide (MK2-AP) is effective against anthrax toxin-induced vascular leak. MK2-AP should benefit patients with Acute Lung Injury (ALI) due to agents ranging from influenza to aspiration. MK2-AP is an activator of the enzyme MK2, which causes increased phosphorylation of the small heat shock protein, HSP27. Extensive research into cell signaling led us to conclude that activation of signaling that leads to HSP27 phosphorylation augments the permeability barrier and reduces leak.  A peptide was synthesized that targets MK2 with a modified sequence that improved its entry into cells. MK2-AP was shown to specifically activate MK2 and increase HSP27 phosphorylation and at the same time it protected cells and animals from the effects of anthrax Lethal Toxin.

PHARMEVA     XJ Zhou, PhD

Pharmeva is developing a novel proprietary combination therapy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B (CHB), a persistent, potentially progressive necroinflammatory liver disease caused by chronic infection with HBV. Compared to its component antivirals, Pharmeva’s novel combination HBV therapy is expected to produce much improved clinical efficacy with little or no viral resistance after prolonged treatment and potentially better safety profile. This novel therapy has the potential to be a first-line therapeutic for the treatment of CHB.

VITATHREADS    Adam Collette

VitaThreads is developing an innovative bioresorbable delivery technology for efficient, targeted cell delivery offering the potential for improved cell therapy outcomes in multiple large-market applications including wound care and cardiac therapy. While cell therapy has been shown to provide a significant benefit to patients suffering from multiple pathologies, the efficacy of cell therapy is limited by low cell engraftment rates and poor delivery specificity. The VitaThreads platform empowers physicians to deliver cell therapy to the specific location where it is needed, substantially improving upon current cell therapy limitations. 

 

Each of these entrepreneurs is working with a team of mentors and an MBA student with expertise that fits their needs. The mentors and entrepreneurs will meet several times over the next two months to collaborate on a business plan for the proposed new technology or platform. The program culminates with entrepreneurs making their first pitch to a small group of venture capitalists and other possible investors. To date, approximately 14% of MassCONNECT graduates have received funding following their graduation from the program.

Most recently, Patrick Stern of Sextant Therapeutics (2012 Cycle 1 Participant) shared his company’s good news: “Due in large part to the pitch we crafted [with MassCONNECT “Team Sextant”], Sextant Therapeutics is a finalist in MassChallenge. We are now raising our first angel round of $200K and moving into biotech incubator space this summer.”

This cycle of MassCONNECT is sponsored by Jones Day. With nearly 250 IP lawyers in 27 locations worldwide, Jones Day provides seamless portfolio counseling, enforcement and defense services throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Jones Day is providing three mentors for the cycle: Eileen Falvey, Ph.D., Sebastian Martinek, Ph.D., and Hong-Van Le, Ph.D.

"Although a recent entrant in the Boston legal market, Jones Day is committed to the Boston community and is proud to partner with MassCONNECT," said Eileen Falvey, an intellectual property partner in Jones Day's Boston office. "We share MassCONNECT's important mission to engage and connect entrepreneurs with biotechnology professionals who will provide industry expertise and guidance in the community."

MassCONNECT is open to all life sciences-based, pre-seed and seed stage opportunities. The venture must involve the development of a new products, services, applications, or process in the life sciences area. Typically, these will include new diagnostic tests, pre-clinical therapeutic molecules, platform technologies, and/or instrumentation.

For more information, or to apply to be a mentor, mentee, or MBA intern, visit http://www.massbio.org/innovation/massconnect.

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