MassBio Welcomes Four Life Sciences Startups to Participate in MassCONNECT® Spring Mentorship Cycle

Mar 01, 2018

Entrepreneurs focused on enabling AAV gene therapy, preventing heart-failure by monitoring fluid retention, developing targeted therapies for cancer, and revolutionizing surgery using augmented reality showcase their technologies at MassBio

March 1, 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 first cycle of 2018 with a technology showcase. During the event, the four chosen life sciences startups presented their ideas to a room of industry executives and potential mentors for early feedback. Their research represents the cutting-edge of science, with this cycle’s cohort focused on enabling AAV gene therapy for eye and liver diseases, using augmented reality to help surgeons operate safer and faster, developing targeted therapies for cancer, and preventing heart-failure by monitoring fluid retention.

This MassCONNECT® cycle is being sponsored by Bayer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Evaluate Pharma.

“As an active member of the Boston innovation community, Bayer is excited to partner with the MassCONNECT program to advance patient-centric scientific ideas,” said Chandra Ramanathan, Vice President, Head of the East Coast Innovation Center at Bayer. “We are proud to support and mentor entrepreneurs seeking new ways to develop better treatments for patients, faster.”

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 MassCONNECT® mentoring program is critically important in shaping and nurturing budding life science entrepreneurs into leading experts as well as assisting in bringing their healthcare innovations closer to reality,” said Clark Y. Lin, Ph.D., Associate, Intellectual Property, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. “Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is deeply aligned with these goals and values, and is thrilled to be part of this sponsorship cycle. We very much look forward to mentoring and working with these talented people in this collaborative, entrepreneurial environment.”

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

Ally Therapeutics
Tina Liu, MBA; Kai Chan, PhD; George Church, PhD

Host immune responses represent a major challenge for AAV gene therapy. After decades of work, breakthrough successes – such as Spark’s Luxturna and AveXis’ SMA program – are emerging, however, the methods they use to overcome the host immune response are blunt and not broadly applicable. Ally Therapeutics is developing a new technology that enables AAV to evade the innate immune response.

Adecto Pharmaceuticals
Nora D. Mineva, PhD; Gail E. Sonenshein, PhD; Mathilde Romagnoli, PhD

Adecto Pharmaceuticals is an early-stage cancer therapeutics company, spun out from Tufts University School of Medicine. Adecto is developing a targeted antibody-based therapy against ADAM8-expressing cancers. The ADAM8 protein is a critical driver of tumor growth and spread and has been implicated in a number of aggressive cancers including breast, gastric, lung and pancreatic. Their initial focus is on triple-negative breast cancer but they plan on expanding to other oncology indications in the future.

Herb Ryan; Trevor Kemp, PhD; Jens Höfflin

Bitome is developing a noninvasive device to monitor the fluid status of congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. In 2014, $39B was spent treating CHF in the US – $17B on readmissions alone. Identifying early signs and physiological changes associated with pre-diagnosable congestion remains a challenge, especially when caring for CHF patients, as inadequate diagnostic tools often lead to patients being discharged in an overloaded state. Fluid overloaded patients are at increased risk of readmission within 30-days. Bitome’s technology will precisely assess volume status in CHF patients, which is a key biometric correlated with patient outcomes.

Z Imaging
Grigory Khimulya; Jose Amich; Raahil Sha; Young Kim, DMD

Z Imaging uses augmented reality to let surgeons virtually see inside of their patients and provides step-by-step visual guidance and real-time feedback to make image-guided surgeries dramatically safer and faster.

“This cycle’s entrepreneurs define innovation and personify the industry’s passion to help patients,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer at MassBio. “We’re honored to work with and support this extraordinary group of innovators, and offer profound thanks to the mentors who have signed up to provide the gift of their time and experience, and to Bayer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Evaluate for their generous sponsorship.”

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About MassCONNECT®

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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