CELLENS & TUFTS UNIVERSITY TO RECEIVE “BITS TO BYTES” AWARD FROM BAKER-POLITO ADMINISTRATION AND THE MASSACHUSETTS LIFE SCIENCES CENTER

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Fourteen projects receiving funding to support R&D, innovation in addressing challenges in therapeutic delivery and unlocking potential of data science to answer pressing life sciences questions.

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced more than $18 million in capital funding to support 14 projects by advancing life sciences R&D, innovations in therapeutic delivery and unlocking potential of data science to answer pressing life sciences questions. The MLSC is awarding this funding through its capital programming portfolio, specifically its Research Infrastructure, Novel Therapeutics Delivery, and Bits to Bytes programs.

“Massachusetts is the life science innovation hub for the nation and world, home to countless partners in industry and academia pioneering the next big breakthroughs,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “In order to retain our leadership position, our administration will continue to make strategic investments across Massachusetts that keep us at the forefront of life sciences advances and capabilities.”

“Investments in life sciences innovation and expansion are more essential than ever,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “The projects being funded by our partners at the Life Sciences Center will further position Massachusetts as the leading ecosystem to deliver the discoveries that further unlock our understanding of human health and work across scientific disciplines to improve patient outcomes.”

Since its inception, the MLSC has administered an open, competitive capital program to provide grants for projects that support the life sciences ecosystem in Massachusetts. This has led to $504 million of investments toward capital projects and infrastructure. These projects have leveraged an additional $1.3 billion in funding. More recently, in order for the Center to continue to serve the needs of the ecosystem, the design of its capital programming has added focus areas such as therapeutics delivery and data science. This enables MLSC funding to further drive innovation in these sectors, as well as, industry and academic collaboration. Since 2018, 55 industry partners have collaborated with MLSC awardee institutions on capital projects across Massachusetts.

“The Life Sciences Center continues to catalyze transformative growth in jobs, funding, and infrastructure that is driving scientific discovery and producing therapies and other products that are improving patients’ lives around the world,” said Massachusetts Housing & Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as Co-Chair of the MLSC Board of Directors. “The Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to providing key investments to maintain the upward trajectory of the life sciences sector in Massachusetts as a mechanism for workforce and economic development, and scientific advancement.”

“The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to support cross-sector collaboration and strategic investments that help ensure Massachusetts remains a global leader in the life sciences, research, development and medical advancements fields,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan, who also serves as MLSC Board Co-Chair. “Massachusetts is uniquely positioned with its support for new ideas and innovative strategies that promise a strong return for the Commonwealth as well as improved human health and patient outcomes.”

“These strategic investments will enable our Commonwealth to leverage emerging research and innovative infrastructure to accelerate growth and success at all levels of our ecosystem,” said MLSC President and CEO Kenn Turner. “In order to sustain our global leadership in the life sciences, we must continue to catalyze industry and academic collaboration to advance the life sciences and our broader health care system.”

Investment in capital projects and infrastructure is required to create and sustain the attributes that make Massachusetts a global leader in the life sciences. The design of the MLSC’s Research Infrastructure program is to provide grants for capital projects that support the state’s life sciences ecosystem by enabling and supporting research and development. This year, six projects are receiving funding totaling $11.4 million.

“We are very excited about the receipt of continued support from the Massachusetts Life Science Center for the purchase of a state-of-the-art instrument for the UMASS Cryo-EM Core facility,” said Roger J. Davis, PhD, FRS, the H. Arthur Smith Chair in Cancer Research and chair and professor of molecular medicine at UMass Medical School. “The new Glacios cryo-electron microscope, Selectris energy filter, and Falcon 4 detector will dramatically speed work-flows in the Cryo-EM Core for both tomography studies and molecular structure determinations using single particle methods”.

“Spatial tissue profiling represents the new technological frontier in biomedicine, promising an exciting era of discovery and personalized medicine,” said Ioannis Vlachos, PhD, Director of Spatial Technologies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “The MLSC award enables us to establish a trailblazing outwards-facing Spatial Technologies Unit, where access to expertise and equipment is openly provided to academia and industry; creating an unparalleled focal point for spatial technology research, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Massachusetts.”

“We are grateful to MLSC for this award and the opportunity to establish a state-of-the-art metabolomics facility at Dana-Farber. This technology resource will not only enhance metabolism research but also provide novel opportunities for discovery of disease targets, biomarkers and precision medicine strategies at and beyond DFCI in a multi-institutional manner. It will be a conduit for bench-to-bedside and back to bench research, fostering biomedical breakthroughs,” said Nika Danial, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Co-Director of the T32 Training Program in Cancer Chemcial Biology and Metabolism at Dana-Farber.

“At a time when understanding the pathology of infectious diseases is more critical than ever, the generous support of Mass Life Sciences Center has allowed Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University to purchase essential equipment for a state-of-the-art Comparative and Translational Infectious Disease Pathology Shared Resource that will advance the utility and application of infectious disease models,” said Dr. Cheryl London, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education at Cummings School. “When fully operational, this resource will offer advanced capacities for credentialling and analyzing animal models of disease using digital spatial profiling and associated global transcriptomics/proteomics as well as tissue cyclic immunofluorescence. These capacities will help to grow collaborative opportunities among regional academic and industry entities; provide training opportunities for students, fellows, scientists and clinicians; and ultimately support job growth through expansion of the research enterprise in Central Massachusetts.”

The MLSC Novel Therapeutics Delivery program fosters the development of novel technologies and techniques for the delivery of existing or innovative therapies by partnering on projects at the intersection of engineering, biology, chemistry, and medicine. Innovative new therapies are dependent on advancements in drug delivery. However, the availability of such therapies is not accelerating at the rate with which technology is advancing. The program aims to capitalize and incentivize translational projects to address complex challenges in “therapeutic” delivery. Three projects are receiving funding this program year, totaling more than $2 million.

“We are grateful for MLSC’s capital investment in our novel therapeutic delivery program,” said David Luzzi, Senior Vice Provost for Research & Vice President of the Innovation Campus at Burlington, MA, Northeastern University. “It will enable Northeastern, with its partners at Eli Lilly and Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, to collaborate on the development of nucleic acid therapeutics for chronic diseases of the brain. This approach will catalyze a tremendous amount of additional drug development efforts in Massachusetts, with a truly diverse team from academia and industry.”

“STRM.BIO is excited to be partnering with the MLSC and the Machlus lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in leading the charge to bring gene therapy to life,” said Dr. Jonathan Thon, Founder and CEO of STRM.BIO. “Our work, made possible by the Baker-Polito Administration, keeps Massachusetts at the forefront of life science innovation and will open the door to the future of medicine for patients living with rare diseases worldwide.”

“The unique design and formulation of the microneedles for drug delivery needed state of the art equipment to characterize their pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic responses,” said Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering at Tufts University and director of the Nano Lab. “The capital equipment will support advanced imaging tools and mass spectrometry to allow such characterizations.”

“This collaboration allows Anodyne, as an industry supporter, access to high quality capital equipment that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for a startup to acquire,” said Jake Lombardo, Co-founder & CEO of Anodyne Nanotech, Inc. “Having all of the necessary equipment in a central location has a huge impact on both the quality and speed at which we can acquire data to characterize our novel drug delivery system.”

The role of data sciences in life science innovation has evolved rapidly and has the potential to catalyze discoveries at unprecedented rates. Investment in generating well-annotated datasets and training data scientists for life science research is required to sustain Massachusetts’s global leadership position in life science research and development. The MLSC launched its Bits to Bytes program in 2018 to provide grants for scientific projects that generate and analyze large datasets to answer pressing life sciences questions, and to attract and train data scientists in the Commonwealth. The Center is distributing nearly $4.5 million across six projects through Bits to Bytes.

“I am thrilled to receive the ‘Bits to Bytes’ award,” said Igor Sokolov, professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering at Tufts University, Bernard M. Gordon Senior Faculty Fellow, and director of NABLAB. “The areas of possible applications of our new data are extremely broad, from detection of various diseases, screening the efficiency of drugs, and personalized medicine up to deepening our understanding of operational principles of biological cells. Together with our industry partner, Cellens Inc., we expect that this collaboration will lay the strategic groundwork for further advancement of data science and technology for medical applications of nanotechnology in Massachusetts.”

“We are truly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Tufts University to develop novel and highly accurate approaches to detect cancer, with a goal of improving the quality of patients’ lives,” said Jean Pham, Co-founder and CEO of Cellens, Inc. “Our data-intensive project will provide opportunities to help answer pressing clinical questions. Cellens is looking forward to contributing to building stronger research and development pipelines and to the growth of our Massachusetts life science ecosystem through the ‘Bits to Bytes’ program.”

“This groundbreaking program by the Commonwealth, which the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have made possible, is exactly the kind of support needed to catalyze breakthroughs here in Massachusetts, for the benefit of all,” said Ramy Arnaout, MD, Associate Director of Clinical Microbiology Laboratories at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“Point of care ultrasound technology enables physicians to obtain critical diagnostic information of patients immediately at the bedside yet only a small fraction of medical doctors in Massachusetts have point-of-care ultrasound training,” said Andrew Goldsmith, MD, MBA, Director of Emergency Ultrasound at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Instructor at Harvard Medical School. “With this funding, our Brigham and Women’s team with Centaur Labs – a leading provider of medical data labeling – will develop multiple AI applications for point of care ultrasound and revolutionize the way we deliver care.”

“We are very grateful for the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) for offering this support. It will help move our collaboration with Abbott Inc., which started in 2014, to a new phase that develops cutting-edge data science to improve nutrition for a better infant brain development.” said Yangming Ou, Assistant Professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “NIH just announced the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan for precision nutrition with the help of AI and data science. This support comes at the right timing. We will identify optimal nutrition and diet to breastfeeding mothers, so to best help offspring’s brain development from early infancy through early school age, given other individualized factors such as demographics, socioeconomics status, feeding patterns, and infant individual differences as shown in brain MRI. This award will help sustain Massachusetts’ leadership role in this field.”

“Thanks to the MLSC and our partners at Johnson & Johnson, we will be able to produce a dataset of unprecedented quality and size that we will make freely available to scientists everywhere,” said Chris Bahl, Head of Protein Design at the Institute for Protein Innovation. “These data will be the key to developing machine learning methods that will accelerate the creation of many new medicines for years to come.”

Research Infrastructure program awardees:

Awardee: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: Spatial Technologies Unit in the Precision Medicine Initiative at BIDMC

Awardee: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Inc
Project Title: Mass Spectrometry Metabolomics Solutions for Highly Scalable Integrated OMics: Charting Metabolic Contributions to Disease Development and Therapeutic Outcomes

Awardee: Museum of Science
Project Title: Project Vaccine

Awardee: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Project Title: Establishing a state of the art comparative infectious disease pathology core to accelerate translational research

Awardee: UMass Medical School
Project Title: Massachusetts Center for High-Resolution Electron Cryomicroscopy

Novel Therapeutics Delivery program awardees:

Awardee (PI, Institution): Mansoor Amiji, University Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University
Industry Partner(s): Eli Lilly and Company, Mass Eye and Ear
Project Title: CNS Delivery of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics using MIND

Awardee (PI, Institution): Sameer Sonkusale, Professor, Tufts University
Industry Partner(s): Anodyne Nanotech
Project Title: Transdermal delivery of monoclonal antibody therapy using macro-porous structured hard microneedle technology

Awardee (PI, Institution): Kellie Machlus, Assistant Professor, Boston Children’s Hospital
Industry Partner(s): STRM.BIO, Inc.
Project Title: Extracellular Vesicles for Targeted Biotherapeutic Delivery to the Bone Marrow

Bits to Bytes program awardees:

Awardee (PI, Institution): Ramy Arnaout, Associate Director, Clinical Microbiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): Kapa Biosystems, Inc
Project Title: Creating a Large Clinically Annotated Dataset of Antibody and TCR Repertoires in Cancer and Infectious Disease

Awardee (PI, Institution): Andrew Goldsmith, Tina Kapur, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Industry Partner(s): Centaur Labs
Project Title: Artificial Intelligence Guidance for High-Yield Point-of-Care Ultrasound Applications

Awardee (PI, Institution): Michael Mina, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Industry Partner(s): Quest Diagnostics
Project Title: High Throughput Laboratory for Advanced Immunological Testing for Clinical and Public Health Surveillance

Awardee (PI, Institution): Yangming Ou, Assistant Professor, Boston Children’s Hospital
Industry Partner(s): Abbott Nutrition, Abbott Advanced Technology
Project Title: Precision Nutrition for Term-born Infants

Awardee (PI, Institution): Christopher Bahl, Head of Protein Design, Institute for Protein Innovation
Industry Partner(s): Johnson and Johnson
Project Title: Solving the protein biologic developability problem with high-throughput laboratory science and machine learning

Awardee (PI, Institution): Igor Sokolov, Professor, Tufts University
Industry Partner(s): Cellens
Project Title: Towards development of noninvasive detection of bladder cancer through advanced nanoscale imaging and machine learning analysis

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