January 24, 2024

Healey-Driscoll Administration and Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Announce Awardees for Public-Private Initiative to Support Diverse Entrepreneurs

Awardees represent first cohort of recently expanded MassNextGen Initiative

Cambridge, MA—Today, Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao joined the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) team, and President of Takeda’s U.S. Business Unit and U.S. Country Head Julie Kim, to announce the awardees of the Massachusetts Next Generation (MassNextGen) Initiative, a public-private partnership to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Massachusetts life sciences sector. Five companies will receive awards of $97,500 per company, including additional funds and in-kind services from MassNextGen sponsors. This year’s cohort is receiving more than $500,000 in support through the initiative.

“In our ongoing efforts to lengthen our lead in life sciences, we know that our greatest asset is our world-class talent,” said Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao, who serves as co-chair of the MLSC’s Board of Directors. “Initiatives such as MassNextGen showcase the collaborative nature of Team Massachusetts, driving equitable growth and groundbreaking advancements for our state and patients around the world.”

The announcement event was hosted by Takeda, which serves as the Anchor Platinum Sponsor of the expanded MassNextGen initiative. Originally launched in 2018 to ensure greater gender parity in the next generation of life science entrepreneurs, last year, the Healey-Driscoll Administration, the MLSC, and MassNextGen sponsors expanded the program to support a broader pool of underrepresented entrepreneurs.

“The expansion of the program was critical to advancing an R&D ecosystem that is inclusive of all the vast talent that is too often underrepresented when it comes to awarding venture capital funding,” said Julie Kim, president of Takeda’s U.S. Business Unit and U.S. Country Head. “Takeda is proud to work in collaboration with the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and Healey-Driscoll Administration to ensure that the science of tomorrow has the support it needs to develop, today.”                     

Awardees of the program receive a year-long customized package of support, which includes non-dilutive grant funding and access to a network of seasoned professionals from the life sciences ecosystem helping them to refine their business strategies and effectively raise capital. In addition, the program fosters an organic community of entrepreneurs where awardees could collaborate with like-minded leaders sharing experiences, ideas, and a sense of belonging. 

“Our MassNextGen awardees and the growing number of sponsors and partners represent the very best of our life sciences ecosystem,” said MLSC Vice President of Industry Strategy and Investments Carla Reimold, Ph.D. “I am so grateful for the collaborative spirit driving this Initiative’s continued success. Entrepreneurs of every background deserve full access to the life sciences industry, and our economic, workforce, and scientific output will be stronger because of it.”

MassNextGen industry sponsors also include Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Mintz, Berkshire Innovation Center, Cambridge Scientific Labs, InnoVenture Labs, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, M2D2, and Mansfield Bio-Incubator.

The five companies selected as awardees through the fifth year of the MassNextGen program represent a wide range of applications to advance innovative technologies in life sciences and improve public health.

MassNextGen Awardees

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Samantha Johnson
Samantha is the Founder and CEO of Tatum Robotics, supporting DeafBlind individuals with their first independent communication tool prioritizing their primary language, tactile sign.

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Ananya Zutshi
Ananya is Co-Founder and CEO of Guardian Bio, developing a first-in-class therapy leveraging a newly defined type of dendritic cell designed to launch a personalized anti-tumor immune response in cancer patients.

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Katerina Chatzi
Katerina is the Founder and CEO of Promakhos Therapeutics, developing curative therapies that restore the function of the immune system, allowing the body to control inflammation and heal.

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Karen Cronholm
Karen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Akeyna, a medical technology company dedicated to improving the lives of patients and medical professionals by increasing the safety of common procedures. Akeyna’s novel technology detects the presence of blood vessels in vivo.

MassNextGen Entrepreneur: Diana Mojahed
Diana, the Founder and CEO of Pathflow, Inc., is developing a high-resolution 3D tissue imager on-a-chip that will enable a more accurate, efficient, and less costly tissue diagnostic pathology process.

With 31 companies in the MassNextGen portfolio, the MLSC funding combined with executive coaching and business mentorship proved to be invaluable for women entrepreneurs in building their teams and progressing forward with new opportunities. The program continues to see tremendous success from previous awardees, including 15 companies who have raised a seed or series A financing round. MassNextGen companies have raised nearly $170 million in follow-on funding.

Statements of Support:

“InnoVenture Labs extends heartfelt congratulations to the outstanding individuals chosen for the latest cohort of MSLC’s MassNextGen program,” said InnoVenture Labs President Chris Ilsley. “As a longstanding supporter and sponsor of this initiative, InnoVenture Labs is thrilled to witness the continuous emergence of remarkable entrepreneurs and cutting-edge technologies throughout the years. For several years, InnoVenture Labs has been fortunate to witness the transformative impact of the MassNextGen program on the entrepreneurial landscape. This platform has consistently nurtured innovation and empowered visionaries to shape the future of technology. InnoVenture Labs remains dedicated to providing unwavering support to the MassNextGen cohort, offering mentorship, resources, and expertise to help these promising entrepreneurs achieve their goals.”

“We are inspired by MLSC’s commitment to building a life science ecosystem that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and one that reaches all corners of the Commonwealth,” said Berkshire Innovation Center Executive Director Ben Sosne. “This year’s MassNextGen awardees represent the future of the life science community, a community we are proud and honored to be a part of. We welcome any of the awardees to leverage the Berkshire Innovation Center and our network of industry and academic partners in any way that helps them advance in their entrepreneurial journey.” 

“Talent and innovation are the heart of the Commonwealth’s success,” said Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives President and CEO Jon Weaver. “We’re so grateful to MLSC for investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs through MassNextGen and ensuring they have the support they need to innovate and create jobs.” 

“M2D2 is a joint UMass Lowell – UMass Chan Medical School program focused on supporting innovators and helping to advance and launch their novel medtech and biotech technologies and solutions,” said Mary Ann Picard, Executive Director for Innovation, UMass Lowell. “We’re aligned with the Life Sciences Center’s diversity mission and are proud to support their initiatives to support the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“To sustain Massachusetts’ coveted spot as a top-ranked life science ecosystem, fostering the diversity amongst the founders through the initiatives like MassNextGen is critical,” said Alexander Margulis, PhD, Chief Operating Officer at Mansfield Bio-Incubator. “Consistent with the state’s push create vibrant life science mini-clusters across the Commonwealth, Mansfield Bio-Incubator is fully committed to supporting this initiative through sponsorship by offering access to world-class laboratory facilities, mentoring program, spearheading company creation, and connecting the entrepreneurs to key stakeholders such as to investors, academic institutions, and other ancillary services.”

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts, home to the most verdant and productive life sciences ecosystem in the world.  Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, research and development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical devices, diagnostics, and digital health.  Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed nearly $980 million in Massachusetts, through a combination of grants, loans, capital infrastructure investments, tax incentives and workforce programs. These investments have created thousands of jobs and propelled the development of new therapies, devices and scientific advancements that are improving patient health and well-being in Massachusetts and beyond.