June 14, 2021

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Awards for Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Initiative for Women Entrepreneurs

Five women-led, early-stage life sciences companies selected to receive non-dilutive capital and access to executive coaching network

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced the 2021 winners for the MLSC’s Massachusetts Next Generation Initiative (MassNextGen), a competitive program to support women entrepreneurs in early-stage life sciences companies. Five companies will receive individual grants of $87,500 and access to a network of executive coaches for a year. For this funding year, the MLSC and the program’s industry sponsors contributed $437,500 in funding for awards. Since inception, including this year’s awards, the MLSC has deployed more than $1.4 million in funding for women entrepreneurs through MassNextGen with an executive coaching network providing 200-plus hours of coaching.

“Massachusetts continues to be the place where women in the life sciences, and at all levels in our innovation economy, can find the tools, resources, and support to ensure their success,” said Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Thanks to programs like MassNextGen, which combines access to capital and coaching and mentoring, Massachusetts is at the forefront of advancing increased access for women to the life sciences field.”

MassNextGen is a five-year, $2 million commitment to foster greater gender parity in the next generation of life science entrepreneurs. Each year, following a competitive program, the MLSC awards women-led, early-stage life science companies a yearlong customized package of support, which includes non-dilutive grant funding and access to a network of seasoned executive coaches from the life sciences ecosystem to refine their business strategies and help increase the effectiveness of efforts to raise capital.

“As we remain focused on ensuring a robust economic recovery, a key piece of our strategy will be empowering women and supporting diversity in the next generation of life sciences entrepreneurs,” said Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as Co-Chair of the MLSC Board of Directors. “I applaud the efforts of the Life Sciences Center and its industry partners for keeping the momentum of this important initiative to build a more diverse ecosystem with equal representation moving forward.” 

“This Baker-Polito Administration is committed to encouraging diversity and empowering more women to enter into life sciences fields,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan, who also serves as MLSC Board Co-Chair. “We continue to make substantial investments in women entrepreneurship in order to promote equity, innovation, and growth, and drive advancements throughout the life sciences sector.”

“We are home to a Commonwealth and an ecosystem that believes that a diverse talent pool is the ultimate driver of new, innovative treatments for patients,” said MLSC President and CEO Kenn Turner. “I am grateful for our partners in the Baker-Polito Administration, our industry sponsors, and executive coaches, for sharing our conviction in the power of working collaboratively to truly build a diverse ecosystem with equal representation.”

The five women-led companies selected as awardees through the third year of the MassNextGen program represent a wide range of applications to improve public health. This year’s MassNextGen awardees are:

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Liane Clamen, Founder and CEO
Adaptilens is developing an accommodating intraocular lens that imitates the natural human lens and works with the muscles inside the eye to allow patients to see clearly over a range of distances without eyeglasses or contact lenses.

MassNextGen Entrepreneur:  Oriana Papin-Zoghbi, CEO and Co-Founder
AOA Dx aims to bring to market the first accurate early stage non-invasive ovarian cancer diagnostic test that will improve clinical practice, help reduce patient mortality and deliver cost savings to payers.

Reboot Rx
MassNextGen Entrepreneur:  Laura Kleiman, Founder and CEO
Reboot Rx is the nonprofit health tech startup dedicated to fast-tracking the development of affordable cancer treatments using repurposed generic drugs, AI technology, and innovative funding models.

InnoTech Precision Medicine
MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Roya Khosravi-Far, Ph.D., PLD, Co-Founder and CEO
InnoTech Precision Medicine is developing a pioneering biosensor platform technology for the next generation of point of care diagnostics.  These biosensors can be developed for many types of disease biomarkers,  including antigens and nucleic acids, allowing accurate, sensitive, and field-deployable diagnosis in one test that is currently possible from multiple tests.   Our initial indication will be for the rapid and accurate screening and diagnosis of upper respiratory infections including COVID and Influenza. Our pipeline includes biosensors for Sepsis and Immune Oncology.

Power of Patients
MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Lynne Becker, CEO and Founder
Power of Patients (POP) is a patient-led technology innovator with a patent-pending AI app that is transforming traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The app is patient-powered, collecting TBI data at a granular level through a patient’s direct input, driving patient engagement to improve care and create unique therapeutic and research opportunities for providers, researchers, and the clinical trial industry.

Increasing the number of successful entrepreneurs is in the best interest of the entire life science industry and as such, this initiative is a public-private partnership between the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Sanofi, King Street Properties, Johnson and Johnson Innovation, Mintz, and the initiative’s initial corporate sponsor, Takeda.

“Investing in strong, diverse leaders is essential to remaining competitive and retaining Massachusetts’ leadership position,” said MassNextGen Executive Coach Dr. Helen Routh, a board director and advisor with extensive experience as a global healthcare executive across research, innovation and business, currently serving on the boards of Ultromics, Agfa & Health Innovation Manchester and the Medical Advisory board of Buoy Health. “Public-private partnerships such as MassNextGen will play a significant role in shaping Massachusetts as the most equitable and diverse life sciences ecosystem in the country.”

Now with 21 companies in its portfolio, MassNextGen continues toward its goal of shifting the paradigm to build a diverse ecosystem with equal representation. As MassNextGen Entrepreneurs and their respective teams work toward new innovative therapeutics and products for patients, MLSC funding and executive coaching mentorship have proven invaluable for these women entrepreneurs in building their teams and progressing forward with new opportunities. Four companies have raised a Seed or Series A financing round. In total, MassNextGen companies have raised $29 million in follow on funding.

This includes 2020 awardee New Equilibrium Biosciences, a biotech that develops medicines targeting intrinsically disordered proteins, a challenging class of targets implicated in cancers and neurodegenerative disorders. Under the leadership of its CEO and Co-Founder Dr. Virginia Burger, the company raised a $10 million seed round through RA Capital and are now growing their interdisciplinary team, accelerating their drug discovery programs, and expanding their computational-experimental platform.  They more recently were awarded the Servier Spark Award. This award provides New Equilibrium access to the world-class facilities at LabCentral by covering the operating costs of a researcher for one year and, additionally, is opening a dialogue between New Equilibrium and researchers at Servier around their shared interests in creating new medicines for patients with high unmet need.

During the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) International Convention (BIO), which began on June 10 and continues through June 18, the MLSC and its industry partners are demonstrating the exceptional work that is being done within the Commonwealth to grow the life sciences ecosystem and impact global health. Among the Massachusetts companies being featured prominently at the largest biotech partnering and education event, is MassNextGen year one awardee Olaris, Inc. a precision medicine company that uses a pioneering metabolomics platform and proprietary machine learning algorithms to fundamentally improve how disease is diagnosed and treated. Elizabeth O’Day, the CEO and Founder of Olaris, Inc., co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology was elected to serve a three-year term on the Personalized Medicine Coalition Board of Directors, and was recently named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® New England finalist for New England.