Message from the Managing Director

Dear Reader,

Boston University has several “gap funding” programs managed by OTD. These allow BU research to advance towards commercialization leveraging government sponsored basic research funding. BU has a history of being an innovator in research commercialization. The Community Technology Fund established in 1975 was the first university venture fund. It invested in over 175 companies prior to its closing in 2005. Some of CTF’s investments include A123 Battery, Ensemble Therapeutics, Outstart, and Crossbeam. The uninvested portion of CTF was placed into BU’s endowment and provides about $750K annually for gap funding.

OTD funds BU technologies via two programs: Ignition Awards (see the current winners below) and Launch awards. Launch awards are convertible debt funds to bridge to private capital funding. Launch awards require non-BU matching funds. Launch awardees include Allegro Diagnostics, Intica Biomedical, Noblegen, Predictus and Sample6.

BU also has several externally funded programs: Coulter Biomedical Translation, NIH Center for Translational Science, Fraunhofer Alliance and Pfizer Center for Therapeutic Innovation. OTD either manages or supports all these programs, which account for about an additional $1.5M annually in funding for BU research commercialization.

Government basic research funding is increasingly requiring translational strategies for these technologies. Government funding for SBIR/STTR funding is increasing as are new Proof-of-Concept funding programs. This is a welcome pivot towards near term societal benefits from basic research spending by taxpayers.

Life Science $50,000 Grant Winners

Our 2013 Life Science Awardees were Ulla Hansen, David Harris, Avrum Spira and Marc Lenburg, and Kenneth Walsh. All winners demonstrated potential for developing small and large molecule therapeutics in multiple therapeutic areas.

Ulla Hansen, Professor of Biology, is developing small molecule LSF inhibitors for the treatment of liver cancer. The objective of this proposal was to demonstrate growth arrest of primary liver tumors within an animal model, without toxic side effects. As part of their Ignition proposal, the team will generate systematic toxicology studies of the compounds in rodents, pharmacokinetic (PK) analyses of more soluble compound derivatives, and delineation of key features of the LSF biological pathway in liver cancer cells. Pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in the small molecules.

David Harris (Professor and Chair in the Department of Biochemistry) and Emiliano Biasini (Instructor in the Department of Biochemistry) work on prion protein ligands as therapeutic agents for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is associated with accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) peptide in the brain, leading to progressive dementia. Compelling evidence suggests that soluble, oligomeric assemblies of Aß are primarily responsible for the synaptic dysfunction underlying cognitive decline in AD. Recently, the cellular form of the prion protein (PrPc), a membrane glycoprotein expressed at the neuronal surface, has been identified as a receptor for Aß oligomers and possibly toxic protein aggregates associated with other neurodegenerative disorders. The research team is developing small-molecule ligands that bind to PrPC and thereby inhibit the interaction with Aß oligomers.  Their Ignition proposal will test whether such compounds are capable of reducing the pathogenic effects of Aß oligomers in transgenic mouse models of AD.

Avrum Spira (Professor of Medicine, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) and Marc Lenburg (Associate Professor of Medicine in Computational Biomedicine, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine) working together with Post-doctoral scholar Joshua Campbell utilized genome-wide expression profiling to identify therapeutic targets for COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a significant public health problem worldwide and the third leading cause of death in the United States. One of the processes that contributes to COPD is emphysema – the destruction of the tissue where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurs. In order to gain insights into what drives emphysema, the team identified gene-expression changes in lung tissue from patients with severe emphysema . The team also discovered that GHK was able to reverse these changes and restore tissue and collagen remodeling in human fibroblast cell lines.  Therefore, GHK is proposed as a potential therapeutic for emphysema, and the team is seeking industry partners who are interested in commercial development.

Finally, Kenneth Walsh, from the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, has discovered a novel disease modifying therapy for inflammatory myositis. The laboratory has developed a novel transgenic mouse (MyoMouse) with enhanced muscle function exhibited by increased strength, resistance to diet-inducing obesity, and superior regenerative response to muscle injury. Using this model, the team is isolating factors secreted by muscle that confer the health benefits of exercise.The team has focused on the Insulin-Like 6 protein (Insl6) because it demonstrated unique disease modification in a cardiotoxin-induced model of severe muscle injury. To validate the genetic data and Insl6’s therapeutic potential, the team has collaborated with Lake Pharma, Inc. (Belmont, CA), to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of Insulin-Like 6 protein in the setting of inflammatory muscle injury.

The year brought in a range of fantastic Life Science innovations in devices, diagnostics, and small/large molecules. With funding awarded to this year’s winners, we are excited to see continued advances in their research, development, and commercialization.

High Tech $50,000 Grant Winners

Our 2013 High Tech Awardees were Assaf Kfoury, Douglas Densmore, Ramesh Jasti, and for developing commercial applications in Information Technology, Healthcare IT, and chemistry, respectively.

Douglas Densmore, Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department , works on a high throughput, combinatorial, constraint-based DNA cloning software platform called Clotho. One approach in synthetic biology is a combinatorial exploration of biological “Part” composition directed by the satisfaction of constraints on performance and composition. Creating these designs in parallel with automated liquid handling robotics and introducing them into living systems automatically can be called “High Throughput Cloning” (HTC). The Clotho design software has been created for this process and has been demonstrated successfully as a proof-of-concept. This proposal will transition this proof-of-concept software into commercial grade software for multiple, unique, awaiting customers to launch a large-scale commercial enterprise.

Ramesh Jasti, Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department, has developed a novel method to synthesize cycloparaphenylenes (CPPs), which are nanostructures made of carbon. Porous carbon nanotubes have shown great promise as energy storage materials for high performance batteries and as ultracapacitors. In his research, Dr. Jasti has developed the synthesis of the smallest possible slice of a carbon nanotube – termed “carbon nanohoops.” These structures can be prepared with specific diameters and uniformity in high yield and low cost.  Interesting, the 6-CPPs self-assemble in the solid-state into nanotubular materials. This renders them ideal candidates for carbon-based energy storage materials.  Carbon nanohoops have wide ranging applications, including hydrogen storage, CO2 sequestration, light emitting diodes, and nanofiltration. In this proposal, the investigators will develop a “flow” system for the continuous chemical synthesis of cycloparaphenylenes nanohoops.  In addition, they propose to explore the effects that hoop diameter and crystallinity have on charge capacitance, discharge rate, and energy storage.

Assaf Kfoury, Professor in the Computer Science Department, recently supervised the creation of PhD student Mark Reynold’s Software Inspection and Certification Service (SICS). The invention was part of Mark’s doctoral dissertation and he is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science. SICS is an entirely novel method for discovering malware in software applications and web pages. Malicious software on the Internet continues to be a pervasive and vexing problem. Among the most serious type of threats are the so-called “zero-day” exploits, so named because they have never been seen before. Antivirus (AV) and Intrusion Preventions Systems (IPS) do a very good job at recognizing known threats, but they do significantly worse when confronted with malware based on a zero-day. Zero-day exploits can hide for months or even years before they are detected, and account for billions of dollars in damage each year. The SICS method is a completely new approach to address the threat of zero-day exploits. SICS has been demonstrated to do extremely well at detecting zero-days, to have a zero positive rate, and a false negative rate that can be tuned to be as small as desired. Funding from this grant will be used to extend the existing SICS implement (Java and Flash) to the Android platform, as well as building out the necessary infrastructure to support the service.

The winners brought in a range of fantastic High tech innovations in Healthcare I.T., chemistry, and Information Technology. The funding granted this year will help these innovators reach their goals, and we eagerly await their success.

Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll Unplugged

The Office of Technology Development is always working on creative ways to connect our research faculty with entrepreneurs and industry representatives. On February 28, Hiebert Lounge at BU Medical Campus played host to the second annual “Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll Unplugged” for over 100 attendees. The event was organized by BU’s Office of Technology Development in a joint collaboration with the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research. The occasion was designed as a networking and informational event to recognize the valuable contribution of BU’s innovative and entrepreneurial faculty.

A panel discussion on “New Funding Models for Therapeutic and Technology Development” was moderated by Ken Rhodes, Vice President of Neurology Discovery at Biogen Idec.  A distinguished panel of speakers was assembled from Boston University, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Pfizer Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, Broadview Ventures Inc, and Jubilant Life Sciences. In addition, TDRR unplugged also featured various programs supported by The Office of Technology Development, The Evan’s Center Affinity Research Collaboratives, The Clinical and Translational Science Institute, The Coulter Translational Partnership in Biomedical Engineering, and The Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology.

Boston University’s very own co-ed a cappella group, The Treblemakers, brought in a range of entertainment for the evening. Their one-hour set performance from 4:30 to 5:30 included the songs “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake, “Never Let Me Go” by Florence and The Machine, “Eet” by Regina Spektor, and “Bills Bills Bills” by Destiny’s Child to name just a few. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres from Catering on the Charles, and entertainment from the Treblemakers stimulated the audience into networking with fellow Boston University faculty and members of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Our “Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll Unplugged” event was a great showcase of what is to come this summer, July 16th, in our larger-scale “TDRR” event. We hope to intertwine the same themes of networking and enjoyment this summer with our fourth annual run of “Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll.” For more information about this summer’s event, please feel free to check out our website at www.bu.edu/otd/news/tdrr

Message from the Managing Director

Dear Reader,

Boston University has emerged as a significant research university in the past decade. We only began to offer PhDs in Engineering in 1991 and in 2001 our sponsored research revenues was about $200 million. This has almost doubled in the past decade. In the past two years our sponsored research funding from the federal government has been primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Health (NIH):

Boston Medical Center NIH Funding:

BMC: For Projects Initiated in 2011: $38,599,125

BMC: For Projects Initiated in 2012: $38,013,187

Total NSF and NIH Funding:

For Projects Initiated in 2011: $232,590,578

For Projects Initiated in 2012: $231,693,229

Total NSF and NIH Funding Last Two Years: $464,283,877

In addition to NSF and NIH, BU does receive funding from other federal government agencies and from industry. The following shows overall sponsored research at BU.

 

Acpharis speeds drug discovery with in-silico protein interaction tools

Over the past decade, systems biologists have mapped large networks of protein interactions related to various diseased states, providing many potential new drug targets for the pharmaceutical industry. These targets are dissimilar to traditional drug targets, generally lacking natural small molecule ligands and being physically flatter than the cavities used by many drugs; presenting a challenge to those trying to take advantage of this new fountain of knowledge. Assessing the “drugability” of a novel target can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take several years. To make this process more efficient, Boston University Biomedical Engineering Professor Sandor Vajda developed FTMap, a computational solvent mapping program that can rapidly assess the drugability of a protein.

Since systems biology has shown that many diseases can be treated at numerous levels in the protein interaction network, rapidly understanding the drugability of a large number of proteins can prioritize drug development or provide novel entry points for coexisting with products already on the market. For instance, high blood pressure has long been treated by ACE inhibitors, which block the production of angiotensin II from angiotensin I. Recently, Aliskiren came to market which works further upstream by inhibiting renin’s production of angiotensin I. With its separate target, Aliskiren can be used in conjunction with the well-established ACE inhibitors to better manage hypertension, providing the unique opportunity to not just compete with existing hypertension treatments, but to complement them in this large market. With FTMap, pharmaceutical companies can more efficiently discover such novel and effective drugs.

Boston University is in the process of licensing FTMap to Acpharis, a start-up founded by Prof. Vajda and led by his former graduate student David Hall. Acpharis previously licensed PIPER, also developed by Prof. Vajda’s lab, for the computational prediction of how two proteins interact. FTMap and PIPER give Acpharis state of the art methods for both understanding how two proteins interact and understanding the possibilities for blocking that interaction to treat a given disease. Prof. Vajda’s first BU spin-out, SolMap Pharmaceuticals, was acquired by Mercury Computer Systems in 2006.

Acpharis is selling products and services based on its novel technology to help make the pharmaceutical drug discovery process more efficient and less costly. For more information on Acpharis, please visit http://acpharis.com/.

 

Center for Regenerative Medicine builds on Nobel Prize research on stem cells

In early October, Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka shared the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology with British researcher, John Gordon for discovering that bodily cells, such as skin or hair cells can be reprogrammed into stem cells: a brilliant discovery that has the potential of embryonic-like cells that can become any kind of tissue.

When Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute announced the $1.2 million award, they stated that Yamanaka’s 2006 discovery of four transcription factors could degenerate mature cells into primitive cells, induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, which could be reprogrammed into different kinds of mature cells has “revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.”

In the last few years, Boston University’s Center of Regenerative Medicine has built on this technology, namely by making it more efficient and expanding the applications—10 times higher than previously reported studies. Prior research studies relied on four different transcription factors in separate virus vectors to transfer genes into cell’s DNA. Gustavo Mostoslavsky’s, Boston University Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Section, milestone discovery places all four transcription factors in one virus vector coined the “stem cell cassette or STEMCCA.”

“The use of a single lentiviral vector for the derivation of iPS cells will help reduce the variability in efficiency that has been observed between different laboratories, thus enabling more consistent genetic and biochemical characterizations of iPS cells and the reprogramming process,” the researchers concluded.

For more information, please click here.

Message from the Managing Director: Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’Roll 2012

Dear Reader,

As we enter the Presidential election period, perhaps the most important election in a generation, at stake is contrasting visions of the role of government. After WWII, Vanevar Bush and others pushed for an activist role for the federal government in fostering basic research in the US. NSF and other government labs were formed then, followed by NIH, DARPA and NASA in the 1950s. By all measures the return on taxpayer investments has been phenomenal. Technological innovation has powered growth in industry and made our standard of living the envy of the world. The world also benefited from our basic research with huge improvements in better health and poverty reduction.

I have personally been a beneficiary and contributor to this growth. My grandfather, a soil physicist, came to the US to do a post-doc in 1946. My father came with him and got his engineering degrees here. My grandfather returned to India and was part of transforming India from a country of famines to an exporter of food, with US technology.

Massachusetts has been at the center of this Innovation Economy. Led by the unique confluence of great research universities spanning The Charles, Massachusetts has weathered the Great Recession better than most other states. If we are able to commercialize the immense warehouse of innovation and human talent in our universities, we are bound to stay on top.

Boston University has emerged as a significant research university with exciting research that will have significant impact on society. For the third year we will be showcasing BU’s innovative technologies at Tech, Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll, some of which are introduced below. Hoping to see many of you at TDDR and finding ways to bring BU technologies to market to benefit humanity.

For more information about the conference and registration, click here.

Sincerely,

Vinit Nijhawan

Managing Director

ITEC’s Start-Up Summer Camp

Developing your start-up idea can be a difficult task, especially for undergraduate and graduate students who are inexperienced in addressing the challenges of starting a new venture.  To assist these students in developing, testing and validating their business ideas the Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization (ITEC) offers a summer start-up program.

The program lasts 10 weeks in which each attendee is expected to spend at least 40 hours a week developing their business idea. Accepted applicants are provided with office space throughout the summer as well as mentoring support from experienced entrepreneurs in the Boston University community as well as the Boston area. Students learn how to create persuasive elevator pitches, design a “go to market” strategy, write executive summaries and many more entrepreneurial skills.

For the first time, this year the start-up summer camp companies will be participating in the annual Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’Roll networking conference.  They will highlight the 10 participating companies. Some of the companies featured at the event will include:

Campus Protein

An online website that offers college students brand name supplements and vitamins at affordable prices. It offers free same day delivery on the campuses we go on as an added convenience. Users can use the website to interact, track goals and progress, and gain information about fitness.

Inner Greek

The first service-based social network for potential, active and alumni members of college Greek-life across the nation. InnerGreek provides an online platform for chapters to improve recruitment yield, expand alumni involvement and increase annual fundraising, while providing members an exclusive site to effortlessly interact, plan events, and manage their chapter’s day-to-day operations.

Covocative

A “Sales Development 2.0″ software designed to help sales professionals pinpoint areas of improvement, track goal progress, and most importantly, deliver better numbers. Sales reps who use this developmental software platform can expect a 20-30% improvement in sales performance.

Interested in learning more about these start-up ideas as well as the others developed by the students in the program? Want to see how Boston University students rock out in the world of technology, business, and science? Join us at Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’Roll.

For more information about ITEC’s start-up summer camp, please visit click here.

BU New Venture, EnBiotix to engineer next generation antibiotics

EnBiotix, Inc.  a next-generation, engineered antibiotics company has been co-founded by Boston University and Apeiron Partners LLC. The technology is based on the work done by Prof. James J. Collins, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Collins is a Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Center for BioDynamics at Boston University and also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

The unmet medical need and the market opportunity in antibiotics are both very significant. Over the last 20 years, various bacteria have developed resistance to a wide variety of anti-bacterials, heralding the emergence of so-called “super-bugs”: organisms which can cause life-threatening infections and which are susceptible to very few or no effective agents to treat them.

This emerging resistance by a variety of bacteria and fungi has unfortunately been poorly addressed by the scientific and the bio-pharmaceutical industry, with very few new agents and almost no new drug classes having been developed in the last 30 years. Still, the global market for anti-bacterial agents is estimated at ~$30 billion and expected to grow ~6% annually over the next several years.

Through the application of novel synthetic biology, systems biology and network biology approaches to elucidating antibiotic action and bacterial defense mechanisms, Prof. Collins has discovered transformational antibacterial and antifungal platforms which EnBiotix will further develop and commercialize for the benefit of patients, their families, treating physicians and healthcare delivery systems worldwide.

EnBiotix is led by Jeffrey D. Wager, M.D., the founder of Apeiron.  With over 20 years of senior operating experience in the life sciences, Dr. Wager was recruited to Boston in 1995 to help run Medical Science Partners, a Harvard sponsored venture capital fund focused on forming spin-outs from the Harvard medical system, including firms such as ICAgen, Inspire, Oravax (subsequently Acambis), ZYCOS, Inc., Diatide, deCODE, amongst others.  In 2000 he formed Apeiron to focus on designing and executing corporate spin-outs, having successfully completed six to date (including Targacept, Inc. (NASD:TRGT) and Artisan Pharma, Inc.).  Between 2003 – 2006 he advised on the establishment and investment of Z-Cube s.r.l., the €60 million corporate VC arm of the Zambon Group, a privately-held Italian pharmaceutical company.  From 2006 – 2010 he formed and led Artisan Pharma, Inc. as its founding CEO, raising >$50 million, building the team and implementing a 750 patient, 17 country Phase 2b study leading to its acquisition by Asahi in 2011.

For partnering opportunities, please contact:

Renuka Babu

Director, New Ventures

rbabu@bu.edu