Startups Solving Problems in HIV, PTSD, VHL and Diabetes Chosen for MassCONNECT Mentoring

February 24, 2014

Four entrepreneur teams will work with industry mentors to bring innovations to next level

February 24, 2014 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) — Startups aiming to prevent PTSD, treat a rare genetic disease with no current treatment, measure a diabetic’s blood sugar with no need to draw blood and lower the cost of HIV treatment worldwide, have all been named to participate in MassCONNECT.

MassCONNECT, MassBio’s life sciences and healthcare entrepreneur mentorship program, kicked off its first cycle of 2014 today with a Technology Showcase, where the chosen entrepreneurs presented their ideas to a room of industry executives and potential mentors.

For the next 8-10 weeks, these entrepreneurs—chosen for their innovative technologies, products, or services—are paired with seasoned life sciences professionals for evaluation and advice as they work toward developing business plans, launching companies, and raising capital.

“The continued success and growth of the life sciences industry in Massachusetts depends on the ability of talented researchers to build companies that will deliver new treatments to the patients that need them,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer at MassBio. “MassCONNECT links entrepreneurs with seasoned professionals and the resources needed to build the next generation of life sciences companies in Massachusetts.”

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

Aldatu Biosciences: Improving HIV disease monitoring with innovative diagnostic tools
David Raiser & Iain MacLeod
Boston, MA

Aldatu Biosciences (www.aldatubio.com) is using proprietary innovations in low-cost genotyping technology to improve diagnostics for HIV treatment monitoring. The growing prevalence of antiretroviral drug resistance threatens to undermine the efficacy of global HIV treatment programs, yet the tests available to detect it are inadequately sensitive and too costly to be implemented in those areas where HIV presents the greatest public health burden. Using our platform technology (PANDAA), we can overcome the technological and economic challenges of HIV monitoring to address the pressing need for a sensitive, low-cost assay that will match HIV-infected patients with effective therapy.

GlucoWise: A non-invasive glucometer for diabetics
Dr. George Palikaras, Dr. Themos Kallos & Frederico Bastos
London, UK

The unique approach of GlucoWise (www.mediwise.co.uk) is the dual sensor system which utilizes completely safe, low power, high frequency radio waves to measure glucose levels. Only very recently have miniaturized and cost-effective components became available, enabling high-precision industrial applications. GlucoWise’s sensor system utilizes a nano-composite (called a meta-material) to increase the accuracy of the glucose measurements through human tissue.

MGH NewCO: Small molecule therapeutic for VHL disease by targeting HIF2a
Othon Iliopoulos
Boston, MA

Germline mutation in the Von Hippel-Lindau gene (VHL) leads to renal cell cancers, hypervascular tumors of the brain, adrenals and pancreas as well as erythrocytosis. These phenotypes are driven by aberrant expression of Hypoxia Inducible Factor 2a (HIF2a). Currently there is no effective medical treatment for VHL disease. Dr. Iliopoulos’ lab has developed HIF2a inhibitors, identified their mode of action and showed that these inhibitors work in vivo, using animal models of the disease. These inhibitors can be used for treatment of renal cell carcinoma and other human malignancies.

Resilience Pharmaceuticals: Prevention of PTSD leveraging a novel, innovative therapeutic
Retsina Meyer & Veronica Weiner
Boston, MA

PTSD is a devastating illness with huge direct and indirect costs: over $30B annually in the US alone. However, there are no pharmaceutical treatments available to prevent or reverse the disorder. Based on more than five years of preclinical research at MIT, Resilience Pharmaceuticals (www.ResiliencePharma.com) is bringing the discovery of a novel molecular pathway underlying PTSD from the bench to the bedside. Our treatment has robust efficacy in a widely accepted animal model of the disorder.

Each of these entrepreneurs will be paired 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, 12% of MassCONNECT graduates have received funding following their graduation from the program, while others have met board members or CEOs through the program.

This cycle of MassCONNECT is sponsored by Nixon Peabody, which is contributing eight of its Life Sciences attorneys to the mentor teams.

“What MassBio is building with the MassCONNECT program is truly inspiring,” said Chris Allen, a Life Sciences partner in the firm’s Product Liability & Class Action Group. “We are thrilled to partner with this impressive group of entrepreneurs as they develop their businesses and shape the future of the life sciences industry.” Maia Harris, a Life Sciences partner in Nixon Peabody’s IP Litigation Group added, “As lawyers, it’s exciting to be involved in this program and provide very talented individuals with a legal foundation to help them navigate obstacles toward a pathway to success.”

MassCONNECT is open to opportunities that involve the development of a new technologies, products, services, applications, or processes 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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