CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – March 18, 2013 – The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) today announced a $4.1 million capital grant to the Forsyth Institute for a newly-created Forsyth Center for Salivary Diagnostics (FCSD). The grant will support the construction and equipping of the FCSD, a facility that will seek to revolutionize the way disease testing is performed. In addition, the MLSC announced in December, 2012, more than $400,000 in equipment and supply grants to a vocational technical school and workforce development programs in Cambridge.
Through the MLSC, Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences supercluster. These investments are being made under the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative, passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2008.
“Through our investments in education, innovation and infrastructure Massachusetts leads the world in the life sciences,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “That leadership has led and will lead to more jobs.”
The FCSD will develop and commercialize saliva-based tests to replace costly and inconvenient blood-based disease detection tests that are currently used. Saliva contains virtually all of the same medical diagnostic information as blood, including DNA, proteins, hormones, etc., but is easily obtained non-invasively and painlessly, thus making it the approach of choice for people of all ages.
“The MLSC grant to create the Forsyth Salivary Diagnostic Center has the potential to revolutionize health care, by creating new opportunities for early disease detection and prevention,” said Dr. Philip Stashenko, President & CEO of the Forsyth Institute. “Saliva is the mirror to the body, and Forsyth is the world leader in innovative research linking oral and overall health. We will generate new saliva-based diagnostics that can be used in diagnostic laboratories but in addition, by people to monitor their own health.”
When completed, the FCSD will be the home to cutting-edge diagnostic therapies; converting blood-based disease detection to saliva-based assays that would make the tests less expensive and much more convenient. Such assays would be better-suited to use in doctors’ offices and in developing countries. Forsyth plans to work with multiple research partners and include targeted workforce training for biotechnology personnel in its quest to find disease biomarkers in saliva, including metabolic syndrome/pre-diabetes syndrome, Tuberculosis, stroke and more.
“A key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to support the creation of resources that are uniquely available in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, President & CEO of the MLSC. “Forsyth’s Center for Salivary Diagnostics is an example. This center will conduct novel research that has the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics. Investments in cutting-edge facilities like this are helping Massachusetts innovate how life sciences innovation is taking place!”
Also in attendance to celebrate the announcement were Congressman Mike Capuano, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, State Representative Timothy Toomey and Cambridge City Councilors Minka Van Beuzekom and Leland Cheung. “The Forsyth Institute has long been a leader in oral health initiatives. Its new Salivary Diagnostics Center will undertake research that could improve our overall health and make certain diseases easier to detect, earlier and by non-invasive methods,” said Capuano. “I thank the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for helping provide the financial resources that the Forsyth Institute needs to advance this important research.”
“I'm happy to see Forsyth expand into Cambridge, and I'm equally happy that their expansion is in partnership with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Patrick/Murray Administration and the City of Cambridge,” said DiDomenico. “This expansion further proves the city's commitment to bringing high-quality research and innovation to the Commonwealth, and in turn offers more opportunities for employment, education and community development.”
“In simplistic terms, saliva can be considered a dilute solution of blood. Everything found in blood can be found in saliva,” said Dr. Max Goodson, senior member of staff at the Forsyth Institute. “Salivary diagnostic tests have been a languishing vision that now can become a reality, primarily due to the availability of sensitive and specific measurement systems made available through this MLSC capital grant.”
In December, 2012, Lieutenant Governor Murray and the MLSC announced a round of equipment and supply grants for vocational and technical high schools, public high schools in gateway cities and workforce development organizations, with the goal of furthering access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Organizations in Cambridge, Mass., received more than $400,000 toward lab renovation and equipment. The three organizations in Cambridge and the amount of their respective grants are as follows:
School or Organization Award Amount
Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) $249,777
Rindge School of Technical Arts $100,000
BioBuilder Educational Foundation $95,300