MassBio Recognizes Three Biotech and Pharma Companies with Awards at Annual State of Possible Conference

Apr 24, 2024

Vertex earns Scientific Impact of the Year honors; Bristol Myers Squibb receives Spirit of Massachusetts accolade; and Eascra Biotech named MassBioDrive Startup of the Year

CAMBRIDGE, MA (Wednesday, April 24, 2024)—Today, MassBio recognized three biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies with awards during the 2024 State of Possible Conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new annual awards are an opportunity to spotlight companies that have experienced scientific, business, and commercial successes over the past year. MassBio honored Vertex Pharmaceuticals with the Scientific Impact of the Year Award; Bristol Myers Squibb with the Spirit of Massachusetts Award; and Eascra Biotech with the MassBioDrive Startup of the Year Award.

“What makes Massachusetts the global center for drug research and development are the companies that operate here, from the small biotechs spun out of local institutions to the pharmaceutical giants that have built significant presences here to tap into our innovative startups and talent,” said MassBio CEO and President Kendalle Burlin O’Connell. “These companies are working to deliver on the hope placed in them by patients and their successes should be celebrated and their contributions recognized. MassBio is pleased to honor Vertex and Eascra Biotech, two homegrown Massachusetts companies, and Bristol Myers Squibb, an ever-expanding force in the Commonwealth’s life sciences ecosystem.”

The Scientific Impact of the Year Award recognizes a company that has profoundly impacted a field of study, therapeutic area, or patient population through a scientific or commercial breakthrough. In December 2023, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics received FDA approval for CASGEVY™ (exagamglogene autotemcel), a CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited cell therapy, for treating sickle cell disease. The first-in-class treatment has the distinction of being the first CRISPR-based gene-edited therapy authorized in the United States. Vertex subsequently received FDA approval for CASGEVY™ for the treatment of transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia in January 2024. Approximately 17,000 patients in the U.S. with either sickle cell disease or transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia in the U.S. are eligible for a one-time therapy that offers the possibility of a functional cure for their disease. 

Vertex has extended its investment in the creation of transformative medicines for people with serious diseases through commitments to the patient populations it serves, the community of Boston where it operates, its responsibility as a flagship Massachusetts institution, and the partnerships it forges to deliver breakthrough innovation.

“We are honored to be recognized by MassBio for our work in sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia,” said Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., FASN, CEO and President at Vertex. “Our investments in serial innovation, our people, and our expanding footprint in Boston are paving the way for Vertex to continue to develop transformative medicines for patients who are waiting.”

The Spirit of Massachusetts Award recognizes a biopharma company that embodies Massachusetts’ history of innovation, collaboration, and leadership. An honoree has demonstrated a commitment to advancing the local life sciences industry, growing their workforce, partnering across industries and sectors, and giving back to their communities. Over a matter of years, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has established a significant presence in Massachusetts, becoming a Top 10 biopharma employer across two state-of-the-art facilities. BMS’s research and development center in Cambridge Crossing has unified its discovery and development teams working across cancer, immunology and neuroscience with capabilities that span end-to-end drug development. Meanwhile, they are an active participant in the regionalization of the industry, adding a new cell therapy manufacturing facility to their 89-acre Devens campus to deliver personalized therapies at what was already an established center of excellence in developing, testing, and manufacturing biologics medicines.

BMS is helping to grow the innovation ecosystem in Massachusetts through startup mentorship, pharma partnerships, and collaborations with academic institutions. Not only are BMS’s contributions to the local economy and businesses substantial, but they have genuinely embedded their company culture in the communities they operate in through programs that promote and expand STEM education, as well as supporting initiatives that deliver basic human services to residents in need.

“Our teams in Massachusetts identify, advance and deliver meaningful treatments that can transform standards of care for patients,” said Emma Lees, senior vice president, Oncology Discovery and Cambridge site head at BMS. “Our commitment to building a better future for our patients extends beyond our facilities and into the communities where our employees live and work. We’re honored to accept this recognition from MassBio in celebration of the collective contributions that have solidified the region as a leading life sciences innovation hub.” 

The MassBioDrive Startup of the Year Award recognizes a biotech that has completed the MassBioDrive accelerator and is working to solve a significant challenge for patients through next-generation science while exemplifying the entrepreneurial heart of the Massachusetts life sciences community to advance innovation. Designed to support early-stage startups and academic founders through the most important stage of their growth, MassBioDrive leverages MassBio’s expansive network to accelerate the world’s most exciting up-and-coming science. Through industry-specific business expertise, dedicated mentors, and industry connections, MassBioDrive’s cohorts grow quickly over an eight-week hybrid program and emerge ready to take their next step.

Eascra Biotech, an early-stage nanomedicine startup launched in November 2021 and a member of the Fall 2023 MassBioDrive cohort, has developed a proprietary therapeutic delivery platform to deliver RNA, gene editing, and other therapeutic options to hard-to-penetrate tissues such as cartilage, kidney, brain, and solid tumors. Eascra is partnering with NASA to leverage its technology in microgravity conditions on the International Space Station to get its more cost-effective treatment to patients on an expedited timeline. The startup will focus first on patients with arthritis, which affects one in four Americans. Eascra has achieved several business milestones, including securing partnering contracts with Axoim Space and NASA InSPA in 2022, being named a “Startup to Watch” by BostInno in 2022, and receiving a UConn SPARK Award in 2023.

“The Eascra team is honored to receive this award alongside major industry leaders like Vertex and Bristol Myers Squibb. These companies set an excellent example for young companies like ours that aim to improve patients’ lives with new and effective treatments,” said Mari Anne Snow, CEO and Co-founder of Eascra Biotech. “As an early-stage nanomedicine startup, we greatly value this recognition from MassBio, a key organization committed to nurturing the life sciences industry in Massachusetts. We extend our heartfelt thanks on behalf of our dedicated team!”

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About MassBio

MassBio’s mission is to advance Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences to grow the industry, add value to the healthcare system, and improve patient lives. MassBio represents the premier global life sciences and healthcare hub, with 1,600+ members dedicated to preventing, treating, and curing diseases through transformative science and technology that brings value and hope to patients. Founded in 1985, MassBio works to advance policy and promote education, while providing member programs, events, industry information, and services for the #1 life sciences cluster in the world.

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