February 13, 2024

Healey-Driscoll Administration Announces $11.5 Million in Life Sciences Funding Driving Innovation in Data Science, Drug Delivery, and Women’s Health

26 projects receive funding to address challenges in therapeutic delivery, unlocking potential of data science, and translational projects in women’s health

BOSTON – Today, the Healey-Driscoll Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced more than $11.5 million in funding to support 26 projects that are advancing innovation in therapeutic delivery and unlocking the potential of data science to answer pressing life sciences questions. The MLSC is awarding funding through its capital programming portfolio, including the Novel Therapeutics Delivery, Bits to Bytes, and Women’s Health Collaboration program, as well as its First Look Awards and Women’s Health Innovation Grants program.

“Now, more than ever, innovation must remain the calling card of our state  as we stive  to lengthen our lead as the world’s top life sciences hub,” said Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, who serves as Co-Chair of the MLSC Board of Directors. “These investments model opportunities for our continued leadership in the life sciences and support for cross-sector collaboration, that addresses significant challenges to advance our crucial research.”

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, the Center designed its capital programming to address additional 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 130 industry partners have collaborated with MLSC awardee institutions on capital projects across Massachusetts.

“We’re incredibly proud of the potential of these projects to grow our innovation ecosystem and ensure that Massachusetts remains the global life sciences hub,” said MLSC Vice President of Industry Strategy and Investments Carla Reimold, Ph.D. “We’re at our best when we are designing and executing programs which leverage our strengths, but also seek to fill in the gaps and tackle areas of need that will improve patient outcomes.”

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.


Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Qiaobing Xu, Tufts University
Industry Partner(s): Hopewell Therapeutics
Project Title: Brain delivery of mRNA using neurotransmitter derived lipid nanoparticles

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Nerea Zabaleta, Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary
Industry Partner(s): Akouos
Project Title: Optimization of the AAV manufacturing pipeline to produce better quality and higher yield recombinant AAV

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Iris Zhou, Massachusetts General Hospital
Industry Partner(s): Reveal Pharmaceuticals
Project Title: High-field MRI to enable development of diagnostics and therapeutics

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 $4 million across five projects through Bits to Bytes.


Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Michal Tal, MIT
Industry Partner(s): Alden Scientific
Project Title: Decoding Complex Chronic Illness

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Sarbattama “Rimi” Sen, Dr. Camilia Martin, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): Posit (R Studio) and Tellus Therapeutics
Project Title: The Perinatal Systems Biology Program: Leveraging data science and multi-omics approaches for the health of two generations

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Shantanu Singh, Broad Institute
Industry Partner(s): Abbvie, American Chemistry Council, Astrazeneca, Bayer, Corteva, Genentech, GSK, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Ono Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Recursion, Servier, Syngenta, Vertex, Advanced Solutions, Araceli Biosciences Inc., BioSpyder, Nomic Bio, Spring Discovery, Xellar Biosystems
Spring Discovery, XellarBiosystems

Non-profit Partners: Health and Environmental Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, American Chemistry Council
Project Title: OASIS: Exploring Cell Painting and -omics for Liver Toxicity Assessment

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Oliver Jonas, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Industry Partner(s): KiburMedical, Inc.
Project Title: Deep molecular profile of in vivo glio-blastoma response to multiple, individual drugs simultaneously as a clinical data set to support development of drugs targeting brain cancer

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Amanda Martinot, Tufts University
Industry Partner(s): Takeda
Project Title: Advancing animal models of disease with spatial multi-omics and quantitative image analysis

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 Collaboration 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 $2.7 million to support four projects.


Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Sallie Schneider, Dr. Tashanna Myers, Dr. Kelly Gregory, Ph.D., Baystate Medical Center
Industry Partner(s): AOA Dx
Project Title: Evaluation of novel biomarkers for the early detection of ovarian and breast cancer

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Catherine Klapperich, Boston University
Industry Partner(s): Synthera Health
Project Title: Acquisition of an Automated Blood Analyzer System to Enable Evaluation of a Digital Health Program and Assay Development Support at a CLIA Research Laboratory

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Rinath Jeselsohn, Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Industry Partner(s): BostonGene
Project Title: Optimizing the treatment in high-risk hormone receptor positive breast cancer through a multi-omic integrative holistic approach

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Silvi Rouskin, Harvard Medical School
Industry Partner(s): Ascidian Therapeutics
Project Title: Improving selectivity of an MeCP2 exon-editor for Rett Syndrome

The Women’s Health Innovation Grants programs focuses on projects with translational potential and preliminary supporting data, but still require a key set of proof-of-concept experiments prior to attracting a commercial partner or spinning out into a new company. The Center is awarding nine projects nearly $2.5 million.

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. David Pepin, Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Lead AMHR2 agonist selection for contraception and women’s health

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Forest White, MIT
Project Title: Clinical assay development for TNBC patient stratification

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Ronghua ZhuGe, UMass Chan Medical School
Project Title: Developing TAS2R-based therapeutics for preterm birth management

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Michal Tal, MIT
Project Title: Sex differences in high resolution immune profiling of infection-associated chronic illness

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Shannon Kelleher, UMass Lowell
Project Title: Got milk? Harnessing human milk as a liquid biopsy to diagnose lactation disorders

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Katharine White, Boston Medical Center
Project Title: Refining a novel, non-hormonal, long-acting female contraceptive device

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Jocelyn Farmer, Lahey Hospital & Medical Center
Project Title: Define Gender-Specific Modifiers of Immune Predisposition to Long-haul COVID-19

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Sameer Sonkusale, Tufts University
Project Title: A Smart Garment for Women’s Health Monitoring

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Fiorenzo Omenetto, Tufts University
Project Title: Real-Time, Colorimetric Sensing Wearable Product and App Design for the Diagnosis and Long-Term Management of Bacterial Vaginosis

The First Look Awards program, a collaboration between the MLSC and the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, supports exploratory projects to begin developing translatable solutions for women’s health and furthering our understanding of gender biology. The Center is awarding five projects totaling $250,000.


Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. David Pepin, Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Targeting AMHR2 in cancer-associated mesothelial cells as a treatment for ovarian cancer

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Juan Gnecco, Tufts University
Project Title: Mapping the mediators of inflammation across the human menstrual cycle

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Nisha Iyer, Tufts University
Project Title: Human Stem Cell-Derived Sensory Neurons for Modeling Female Reproductive Tract Pain

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Krishna Aragam, Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Assessing genetic risk for peripartum cardiomyopathy

Awardee (PIs, Institution): Dr. Zareen Farukhi, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: Association of Menopausal state, Sex, and Incident CVD events with HDL cholesterol, Particle Subfractions, and Function