Three Entrepreneurs Chosen to Fast-Forward Potentially Groundbreaking Work

October 10, 2012

MassCONNECT mentor program pairs new entrepreneurs with seasoned pros to advance ideas

October 10, 2012 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) —Entrepreneurs working on diagnostics to measure prostate tumors’ aggressiveness, the half-life of potentially therapeutic peptides, and developing a new class of gene therapy products for cancer, HIV, and microorganism-mediated diseases have been chosen to learn from biotech pros in the latest round of MassCONNECT.

These three ideas were chosen for inclusion in MassCONNECT, MassBio’s entrepreneur mentorship program, which kicked off its third 2012 cycle today with a Technology Showcase. 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.

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

Cellanyx Diagnostics               Ashok Chander, Ph.D.
Boston, MA

Cellanyx Diagnostics (www.cellanyx.com) is a development stage company innovating in vitro  tissue and cell culturing techniques for use in research and in-vitro diagnostics. Leveraging lab-on-a-chip technology, a novel suite of biomarkers, microfluidic technology and computational techniques, Cellanyx Diagnostics will offer a quantitative and objective diagnostic for prostate cancer. Ultimately, Cellanyx's product will allow physicians and patients to make more personalized and cost-effective treatment decisions. 

Extend Biosciences                  Tarik Soliman Ph.D.
Cambridge, MA

Extend Biosciences is a start-up biotechnology company focused on developing a novel drug delivery platform technology that improves the pharmacokinetic properties of biologics. Peptides have been particularly challenging to bring to market because they are removed from circulation prior to administering therapeutic value. Extend’s proprietary modifications significantly improve the circulating half-life of peptides, enabling the scientific community to truly develop potent and specific peptide-based drugs. The platform also enhances the absorption and bioavailability of biologics, thereby improving drug delivery and allowing alternative routes of administration.

ZATA Pharmaceuticals, Inc.        David Tabatadze, Ph.D.
Worcester, MA

ZATA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (www.zatapharmaceuticals.com) is developing precursors of gene therapy products and a technology that will lead to a robust synthetic genomics platform. ZATA will ultimately produce and commercialize a new class of gene therapy products for the treatment of cancer, HIV, and microorganism-mediated diseases.

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 12% of MassCONNECT graduates have received funding following their graduation from the program.

Most recently, MassCONNECT graduate MindChild Medical received 510(k) clearance from the FDA for its fetal heard monitor. Now, Meridian, MindChild’s non-invasive monitor designed to report fetal heart rate data can be marketed and sold in the U.S.

“I see our experience with MassCONNECT and the mentoring program as being one of those sort of turning points in MindChild’s development process,” said Adam Wolfberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer of MindChild Medical. “I think it was critically important for us. It gave us access to leaders in the field who could provide us with advice, who could tell us we were doing some things wrong, who could give us access to analyses we that couldn’t have come up with ourselves on a day-to day basis. MindChild really went from being a very early stage, slightly naïve group of inventors, and I think because of the MassCONNECT program turned into a start-up company that is now very well-funded and well on its way to success.” 

This cycle of MassCONNECT is sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP. Pepper Hamilton is providing three mentors for the cycle: Lana Gladstein, Russ Barron, and Greg Williams.

“Pepper Hamilton’s Boston office Life Sciences Practice Group is once again pleased and excited to participate in MassCONNECT. Our previous experiences with MassCONNECT participants were very interesting and rewarding. From the descriptions of the Cycle 3 participants we are certain that these new companies will be equally interesting,” said Gregory Williams, Partner at Pepper Hamilton. “Pepper Hamilton’s philosophy is that new and emerging companies in the life sciences industry are crucial components of the forward progress of the economy, both domestic and international. Pepper is committed to supporting new life sciences companies through programs such as MassCONNECT as part of its ongoing commitment to the life sciences sector.” 

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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