May 20, 2020 (CAMBRIDIGE, MA) – The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio®) has launched a new mentoring program, MassCONNECT PI, to support academic and industry collaborations and reduce the time between drug discovery and development. Under the umbrella of MassBio’s MassCONNECT® program, MassCONNECT PI matches principal investigators (PIs) with industry experts for mentorship as they explore the possibilities of commercializing their technologies. After a pilot program involving 10 PIs last year, MassCONNECT PI was officially launched in March 2020 with 14 PIs from 10 institutions across four states.
“We feel that this program is immensely helpful, and we truly appreciate that our mentors, who have a lot of valuable business and pharmaceutical product development experience, are willing to mentor people like us, who are starting out, still building our network, and still developing our product and marketing plan,” said the McLean Hospital team.
The program kicked off with an introductory webinar with RMG Associates to prepare PIs for their mentoring discussions, as well as future partnering meetings. Participants were then introduced to their mentors – a cohort of 38 industry experts. Over the course of the 8-week program, each mentee will meet with each mentor once during a one-hour meeting. Each of the PIs participating in this cycle represent labs that are developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) platforms for drug or new target discovery, or are developing delivery platforms or diagnostics for neuroscience, oncology, and infectious diseases applications. More than half (65%) of the labs are led by women.
“Working with individual investigators at the conceptual stage of an idea takes mentorship to a different level,” said Chandra Ramanathan, Global Head, Bayer Pharma R&D Open Innovation, Bayer. “Not only does this approach accelerate the development of novel ideas, but it also bestows upon mentors a great degree of responsibility in ensuring that less optimal facets of these ideas are fixed at their nascency. Both individual PIs and mentors benefit greatly from this process, and we owe MassBio a huge debt of gratitude for their efforts to extend this mentorship program to these scientists. It is initiatives like this that help Bayer fulfill its commitment to help entrepreneurs translate their scientific ideas into real-world solutions that improve patients’ lives.”
This first cycle of the program was sponsored by Bayer, an early supporter and advisor of MassBio’s Academic Outreach & Engagement initiatives for the past two years. The program was also made possible by MassCONNECT mentors, who have graciously provided their time, and with the generous support of RMG Associates.
“MassCONNECT PI recognizes the critical need to catalyze collaboration between industry and academia and builds on the success of the MassCONNECT program,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer, MassBio. “PI was created after extensive consultation with academic and industry partners identified gaps and highlighted how MassBio could play an important role in building a sustainable bridge to connect these critical stakeholders. MassCONNECT was launched in 2010 and has continually demonstrated that mentoring plays a critical role in accelerating and supporting early-stage companies during good times and bad. We are pleased to launch MassCONNECT PI and are confident that it will allow us to extend crucial support to Principal Investigators and provide industry with a holistic portal to access novel science and ideas.”
The MassCONNECT PI summer cycle is currently accepting applications until May 25th. If you are interested in applying, please contact Grace M. Yu.
A special cycle with a focus on COVID-19 will also be occurring concurrently to help scientists developing technologies relevant to the pandemic. If you are interested in participating, please connect with Lucie Rochard for more information.
Learn more about the MassCONNECT PI program, here.
Quotes from MassCONNECT PI Participants:
Vesela Kovacheva, MD PhD, Attending Anesthesiologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School
“The success of my research in benefiting patients and physicians depends on partnering with industry. Thank you for connecting us with expert industry mentors who added a unique perspective and are helping us plan our future trajectory.”
Victoria M. Bolotina, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University’s School of Medicine and the founder of Mark Therapeutics.
“I am lucky to [have] participate[d] in the MassCONNECT PI program. I am particularly grateful to Lucie Rochard for invaluable information and for connecting me with successful scientists-entrepreneurs, and expert advisors. These new connections and kind training through this program are very helpful for new PI-entrepreneurs, like myself. Thank you for all your kind efforts!”
Sloan Siegrist, PhD, Assistant Professor of the Department of Microbiology at UMass Amherst
“The mentors from MassCONNECT PI were fantastic. They pointed out all kinds of things that we hadn’t considered and gave us lots of new ideas and directions. We are excited for the next steps.”