MassBio® Welcomes Five Life Sciences Startups to Participate in MassCONNECT® Summer Mentorship Cycle

Jun 26, 2018

Entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions for:
Phages to prevent infections 
Noncontact health monitoring platform 
Accelerate diagnosis of infectious disease 
Revolutionary treatment for chronic ear infections and hearing disorders 
Prevention of neurotoxicity

June 27, 2018 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) — MassBio®’s MassCONNECT®, the only mentoring program in Massachusetts that is solely dedicated to serving the needs of early-stage entrepreneurs in the life sciences, yesterday kicked off its second cycle of 2018 with a technology showcase. During the event, the five chosen life sciences startups presented their ideas to a room of industry executives and potential mentors for early feedback. Their research represents the unbelievable innovation spinning out of academia in Massachusetts, with this cycle’s cohort focused on preventing disease in vulnerable communities, monitoring patient health for clinical trials, accelerating infectious disease diagnostics, revolutionizing treatment of ear infections, and preventing neurotoxicity that drives neurogenerative diseases.

This MassCONNECT cycle is being sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP and EvaluatePharma.

“The participants in the MassCONNECT program exemplify why Massachusetts is one of the most vibrant markets for life sciences innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Steven R. London, partner in the Health Sciences Department of Pepper Hamilton LLP. “We’re proud to continue our support of MassCONNECT and MassBio and we look forward to assisting these groundbreaking companies.”

Following this week’s showcase, entrepreneurs will be paired with a team of mentors, based on their individual objectives and needs, for eight weeks of hands-on coaching as they seek to develop business plans, launch companies and raise capital. The startups will then present in front of potential investors and partners.

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

Co-founders: Rahul Hariharan, PhD; Rumen Hristov, MEng; Zach Kabelac, PhD

Emerald is a noncontact health monitoring platform for clinical trials, which produces a rich and accurate set of metrics related to motion, gait, behavior, respiration and sleep, as well as patient quality of life from the home and in the clinic. Emerald minimizes patient burden by eliminating the need for patients to wear devices or change their behavior in any way. At the heart of the technology is a novel Wi-Fi like sensor that sits in the background and transmits low power radio signals. Emerald uses AI and signal processing algorithms to analyze how these signals reflect off the human body and derive a variety of health metrics, and operates through walls and other obstructions, allowing for expanded coverage. Emerald is based on award winning MIT research, and its technology and algorithms are backed by multiple patents and publications. Emerald is currently in trials with multiple physicians, clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

Co-founders: Minmin Yen, PhD, Andrew Camilli, PhD, Matthew Merighi, MA

PhagePro is an early-stage biotechnology therapeutics company that develops bacteriophage-based products to help the world’s most vulnerable communities, spun out of the Camilli Lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. PhagePro aims to use bacteriophages, which are viruses that specifically target and kill bacteria, to prevent bacterial infections. With the unmitigated rise of antibiotic resistance and the known negative consequences of gut dysbiosis caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics, bacteriophages provide a side effect-free alternative for preventing disease in clinical and community contexts. Their first product, ProphaLytic-VC, is an orally administered bacteriophage cocktail that specifically kills the bacteria that cause cholera and will be used as an intervention for household members of cholera patients in vulnerable communities.

Co-founders: Kwangmin Son, PhD; Roman Stocker, PhD

PhAST has developed innovative technology to accelerate infectious disease diagnostics and help solve the global challenge of antibiotic resistance. A universally recognized bottleneck of current diagnostic approaches is the slow time-to result, which ranges from many hours to several days. PhAST’s technology addresses this gap by providing rapid diagnostic results based on proprietary computer vision algorithms that quantify changes in pathogen phenotypes upon antibiotic exposure. The technology can be applied to all the major diagnostic steps, including pathogen detection, species identification, and antibiotic susceptibility testing, and can work directly from patient body fluid samples.

PionEar Technologies, Inc.
Co-founders: Ida Pavlichenko, PhD; Nicole Black MSc; Prof. Jennifer Lewis, PhD; Prof. Joanna Aizenberg, PhD

PionEar Technologies is an innovative medical device company developing several cutting-edge solutions for ear and hearing disorders. PionEar's first product – a novel minimally invasive tympanostomy tube that prevents cellular and bacterial adhesion and improves drug delivery to the middle and inner ears – aims to revolutionize the treatment of chronic ear infections and hearing loss. PionEar Technologies launched due to an interdisciplinary collaboration between the biomedical researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Bio-Inspired Engineering, and the ear surgeons from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a top-ranked hospital in the nation for otolaryngology care. 

Smith Therapeutics
Founder: Philip Ashton-Rickart, PhD

Smith Therapeutics is a neuro-immunology biotech founded in Boston in November 2017 by former immunology professor Philip Ashton-Rickardt. Smith will use immunosuppressive T regulatory cells (Treg) engineered with Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) specific for brain glial cells (CAR-TregG platform) to shut down the neurotoxicity that drives neurogenerative diseases (NDD). Strategic partnerships will allow clinical proof on concept (POC) for the CAR-TregG platform in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a rare but fatal NDD that shares features with more common NDD such as Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) but which allows expedited clinical evaluation. CAR-TregG will improve the QOL and save the lives of PSP patients at a cost that is equal to or lower than current economic costs. A sequenced growth strategy has the potential to extend platform into other rare tauopathies and major NDD such as AD and PD.

“We are honored to enroll the innovative teams from Emerald, PhagePro, PhAst Diagnostics, PionEar, and Smith Therapeutics into MassCONNECT Cycle II 2018, and grateful to be a part of their noble mission to address unmet medical need with fresh ideas and novel technologies,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer at MassBio. “We also extend our thanks and appreciation to Pepper Hamilton and Evaluate, two stalwart supporters of MassCONNECT and the innovation ecosystem.”



MassBio’s MassCONNECT program is the only entrepreneur mentorship program in Massachusetts that dives deep into the life sciences. MassCONNECT matches entrepreneurs and founders with seasoned life sciences professionals to catalyze and commercialize innovation. The MassCONNECT process involves a two-month mentorship where industry experts guide entrepreneurs as they seek to develop business plans, launch companies, and raise capital. MassCONNECT mentors evaluate and provide feedback on commercial feasibility; identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; and team up to furnish industry-specific business advice for innovative ideas in therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices and health IT. Entrepreneurs gain invaluable advice and coaching on defining value proposition, developing pitches and building professional networks. For more information, or to apply to be a mentor, mentee or MBA project manager, visit

About MassBio

MassBio is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1985 that represents and provides services and support for the Massachusetts life sciences industry. MassBio is committed to advancing Massachusetts' leadership in the life sciences to grow the industry, add value to the healthcare system and improve patient lives. Representing more than 1000+ biotechnology companies, academic institutions, research hospitals, and service organizations involved in life sciences and healthcare, MassBio works to advance policy and promote education, while providing member programs, events, industry information, and services. Learn more at


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