MassBio® Welcomes 12 Principal Investigators to its Final MassCONNECT PI Cycle of its Inaugural Year

Nov 17, 2020

Principal investigators were matched with seasoned industry veterans to explore the path to commercialization for numerous therapeutic areas and medical devices

November 17, 2020 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) – The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio®) recently launched the fall cycle of its MassCONNECT PI program, the only program in Massachusetts that is solely dedicated to serving the needs of Principal Investigators (PIs) in the life sciences. Twelve PIs from eight institutions across the globe were selected to participate in this cycle, demonstrating the breadth of the Massachusetts life sciences cluster and its prominent role in facilitating academic and industry relations. For the final cycle of this year, the PIs focused on therapeutics for oncology, CNS neurodegenerative diseases, chronic and inflammatory bowel diseases, aging, women’s health, and rare diseases; and medical devices to enable cell therapy, for bone biopsy, larynx cancer diagnostics, and women’s health.

Alexandria LaunchLabs and Mispro are sponsors of this MassCONNECT PI cycle.

“When we first heard about MassConnect’s PI Program we immediately reached out to see how we could be involved. It seemed like a perfect fit since we work with an array of clients who are in various stages of the industry and span multiple areas of therapeutic development,” said Keith Astrofsky, DVM, Vice President of Operations, Mispro. “The group of PIs in this session are already experienced and knowledgeable, but the transition from academia to industry can be a challenge, especially in an area like Cambridge where facilities to conduct their own research are limited and costly. Mispro was excited to introduce the coworking vivarium research concept and help connect them with some of our clients who have successfully made that transition.”

The fall cycle of MassCONNECT PI opened with a webinar with RMG Associates to prepare the PIs for their mentoring discussions, as well as future partnering meetings. The 12 PIs were then introduced to mentors via email. This cycle’s cohort represents leading academic institutions spanning five states and two countries, including: University of Massachusetts Amherst, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Louisiana State University Health, University of Kentucky, Tufts University, Ghent University (Belgium), Johns Hopkins University, and University of California Davis.

Under the umbrella of MassBio’s MassCONNECT® program, MassCONNECT PI matches principal investigators with industry experts for mentorship as they explore the possibilities of commercializing their technologies. One PI is matched for two, one-hour meetings with two mentors for perspectives and guidance. Mentors are composed of subject matter experts and key opinion-leaders from MassBio’s renowned MassCONNECT network.

“Connecting academia with industry is critical to foster the innovation required to solve the world’s toughest unmet medical needs and to ensure great science leaves the lab bench and reaches the patient’s bedside,” said Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, Chief Operating Officer, MassBio. “These PIs represent the future of our industry, and we’re excited to have provided them with insight and guidance from our esteemed mentors as they navigate the path to commercialization and seek to transform patient lives.”

Learn more about the MassCONNECT PI program, here.

Quotes from MassCONNECT PI Participants:

D. Joseph Jerry, Ph.D., Science Director, Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute; and Professor, Dept. Of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“MassCONNECT PI provided me with a clear plan and support for making connections with established entrepreneurs. The program is allowing our company to take shape with guidance and input from potential advisors and partners at the earliest stage. We would not be on the way to setting up a company without this support.”

Kevin Braeckmans, Full Professor, Department of Pharmaceutics, Ghent University (Belgium)

“It’s a wonderful initiative that allowed me to discuss my valorization project with experts from industry and the business community that otherwise would be difficult, if not impossible, to get in touch with. The people managing the program are very empathic and try their very best to find an optimal match between the project and selected experts.”

Michael Dunham, MD Principal Investigator & Co-Director Medical Innovation Design Studio (MIDS), LSU Health Sciences Center

“We would like to thank the MassCONNECT for all their assistance and for creating this opportunity. The industry connections and expert discussions were invaluable. The mentors provided a broad perspective, as well as pointed constructive instruction that is already assisting with further development of our innovations. MassCONNECT is a unique opportunity for PIs to connect with subject-matter experts in a collaborative and safe space.”

Robert H. Fairclough, PhD, Department of Neurology, University of California, Davis; and Co-Founder, Sierra Biopharma

“Our MassCONNECT mentors were amazing. They offered valuable advice to help us identify key inflection milestones and helped us outline a product development timeline for our myasthenia gravis therapeutic. Our mentors also helped us focus on what unmet medical need we are solving and the importance of a clearly defined target product profile.”

Vu B. Trinh, PhD, Department of Neurology, University of California, Davis; and Co-Founder, Sierra Biopharma

“Our MassCONNECT mentors were extremely generous with their time and advice. They opened their network to help us make important connections. They also provided valuable insight into the IP landscape and helped us focus on the value proposition of our myasthenia gravis therapeutic.”

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