June 16, 2022

Baker-Polito Administration Announces $5.6 Million in Life Sciences Funding to Drive Innovation in Data Science, Drug Delivery, and Women’s Health

11 projects receiving funding to support innovation in addressing challenges in therapeutic delivery, unlocking potential of data science, and translational projects in women’s health

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced more than $5.6 million funding to support 11 projects advancing innovations in therapeutic delivery and unlocking potential of data science to answer pressing life sciences questions. Funding is also supporting the MLSC’s Women’s Health Initiative, which funds translational projects developing novel solutions in this area of need. The MLSC is awarding this funding through its capital programming portfolio, specifically its Novel Therapeutics Delivery, Bits to Bytes, and Women’s Health programs, in addition to, its First Look Awards program.

“Innovation remains the Commonwealth’s calling card and the Baker-Polito Administration is committed to strengthening our life sciences ecosystem through these and other strategic investments,” said Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as Co-Chair of the MLSC Board of Directors. “We know patients around the world are waiting for the next breakthrough. The Life Sciences Center continues to catalyze transformative growth in jobs, funding, and infrastructure in Massachusetts, but most importantly is helping drive scientific discovery with the potential to produce critical treatments and cures for the benefit of our society.”

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. More recently, to continue to serve the needs of the ecosystem, the Center designed 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, more than 60 industry partners have collaborated with MLSC awardee institutions on capital projects across Massachusetts.

“Innovation is a foundational pillar of our ecosystem as we remain focused on providing strategic investment toward the next generation of researchers, technologies, and opportunities for Massachusetts to lead,” said MLSC President and CEO Kenn Turner. “The Life Sciences Center is incredibly proud to support our cutting-edge research institutions and accelerate collaboration between academia and industry.”

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 $2.2 million.

“SARS-CoV-2 evolved rapidly with seemingly little warning, and there continues to be great uncertainty as to the future of COVID-19,” said James Kirby, MD, Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “We are grateful for this award provided by MLSC, which will be used to develop capability for proactive identification of COVID-19 variants and other emerging infectious diseases that could otherwise cause future pandemics and develop resistance to current and future therapies.”

Awardees:

Awardee (PIs, Institution): James E. Kirby, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): Abbott Molecular
Project Title: Emerging Infections – SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Viral Pneumonia, Encephalitis, Novel Antibiotic Resistance – Sentinel Discovery, Diagnostics Development, and Technology Evaluation

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Z. Gordon Jiang, Yury Popov, Ioannis Vlachos, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): Olix Pharmaceuticals
Project Title: Hepatocyte-specific delivery of RNA therapy for liver failure

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Hsiao-Ying Wey, Massachusetts General Hospital
Industry Partner(s): Takeda
Project Title: High-throughput translational microPET/CT imaging for radiotracer development and drug delivery

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 more than $2.5 million across four projects through Bits to Bytes.

“Investments in research across the life sciences enables opportunities for innovative discoveries that will improve human health and patient outcomes,” said Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, Chief Academic Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Beth Israel Lahey Health. “We greatly appreciate the support from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which will be used by our principal investigators to develop capabilities to identify emerging infectious diseases that could otherwise cause future pandemics, design a novel drug delivery approach and therapy for liver failure, and uncover diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for NASH.”

Awardees:

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Nikolai Slavov, Northeastern University
Industry Partner(s): Bruker Corporation
Project Title: Understanding macrophage polarization by data-driven single-cell proteomics

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Jason Evans, University of Massachusetts Boston
Industry Partner(s): Pinetree Therapeutics, Inc.
Project Title: Using bioinformatics, machine learning-based computational modeling of peptide-target binding and subsequent screening to aid the development of a bispecific antibody for the treatment of solid tumors targeting EGFR and NRP1

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Christos Mantzoros, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): Labcorp, Metabolon
Project Title: Advance the development of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for NASH

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Olivia Corradin, Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research, MIT
Industry Partner(s): Biogen
Project Title: Integrating CRISPR-based pooled functional screens with genetic risk data to elucidate CNS cell dysfunction in multiple sclerosis

The Center launched its Women’s Health Initiative in 2020, to turn the tide against the severe lack of organized capital and incentives around a coordinated Women’s Health approach. With continued strategic investment in this area, Massachusetts is poised to become the leader in the Women’s Health space. The current programs offered through the Initiative focus on increasing the number of translatable opportunities in women’s health at Massachusetts research institutions.

The Women’s Health Program supports collaborative projects that aim to improve the discovery, technical innovation, and/or analysis of datasets to answer pressing life science questions around women’s health. The Center is awarding $748,114 to one project.

Awardee:

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Tanuja Chitnis, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Industry Partner(s): Genentech
Project Title: The multiomic multiple sclerosis brain

The First Look Awards supports early translational research performed by faculty and at a Massachusetts not-for-profit research institution. The Center is awarding $150,000 in grant funding to support three projects.

Awardees:

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Ching-Wen Chang, UMass Chan Medical School
Project Title: A human trophoblast-derived placental model for studying the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on early pregnancy

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Kara McKinley, Harvard University
Project Title: A new model for the study of endometriosis

Awardee (PI, Institution): Marie Billaud, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: Sex Differences in the Pathophysiology of Aortic Diseases