Therapeutic delivery with bacteria
Versatope looks to "good" bacteria to deliver drugs
Bacteria have evolved for thousands of years to move through the human body, for reasons both good and bad.
A new tenant in UMass Lowell's Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center is trying a catch a ride with bacteria to deliver medicine.
Versatope Therapeutics Inc., a startup company that will soon hire its first full-time employee, moved into the business incubator on the fourth floor of 110 Canal St., last month.
"Nature has been doing this for a long time, and what we're doing is leveraging nature's biological adaptations to deliver drugs and vaccines," said CEO Christopher Locher. "We're leveraging the good part of probiotic bacteria and using it as a delivery tool."
Locher said the company uses computer-aided design to harness bacteria as delivery vehicles, and in the process take advantage of the microscopic organisms' positive qualities.
"Bacteria do it better, and they've been doing it better for a very long time," he said.
Locher said the vaccines the company is developing have the potential to protect people from multiple strains of viruses like the flu for life.
"One shot may be able to protect people for the rest of their lives against influenza," he said.
Locher said the startup chose the business incubator known as M2D2 as it's home because the facility includes biological equipment, safety infrastructure, information technology support, and even shipping and waste disposal that is needed by companies like his. But Locher said the M2D2 also has something that few other incubators can offer - connections to the facilities, students, and expertise at UMass Lowell.
"You can pretty much do anything you need to do as a biotech startup while using the equipment and brain trust at UMass Lowell," Locher said. "You can't do that at other incubators in Cambridge."
Locher also praised the biomedical engineering department at UMass Lowell, and said setting up shop in Lowell also gives the company access to students with "the right kind of training."
"They can come in here and hit the ground running," he said of students.
The company will soon hire its first full-time scientist, after relying on consultants and business advisors to advance thus far.
The company won second place this week in the M2D2's $200K Challenge, which rewards companies that are deemed to have the most promising innovations in healthcare.
The M2D2 is currently home to 43 companies, and more than 100 others have been involved with the facility in the past, according to a university spokeswoman. The M2D2 operates two incubators in Lowell on Canal Street and inside the Wannalancit Mills Office and Technology Center.
For more information on Versatope Therapeutics, visit: www.versatope.com.
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