September 3, 2019

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Awards Funding to Support Early-Stage Growth Across Major Sectors

MLSC’s Milestone Achievement Program awards more than $1.9 million to 10 companies representing all major life sciences sectors

WALTHAM— Today, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced more than $1.9 million in funding to support 10 early-stage life sciences companies in Massachusetts. The funding is through the MLSC’s Milestone Achievement Program (MAP), which addresses the needs of early-stage life sciences companies by providing grant funding to execute critical, value-creating technical milestones. The 10 awardees are located across six Massachusetts communities with every major life sciences sector represented among the companies.

“Massachusetts is home to some of the most innovative and game-changing life sciences companies in the world, and the Milestone Achievement Program is just one tool the Baker-Polito Administration provides to the next generation of entrepreneurs and start-ups,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “This year’s awardees represent the diversity of our life sciences sectors, and the vibrancy of those sectors in Greater Boston and across the Commonwealth.”

“The health and viability of our early-stage enterprises are key markers to discern the overall strength and vitality of our life sciences ecosystem,” said MLSC President and CEO Travis McCready. “We are excited by the potential of these companies to produce groundbreaking discoveries and technologies to move the needle in support of improving patient outcomes.”

While venture capital investment in the life sciences has increased in recent years that increase has predominately benefited later-stage companies, which have already raised larger sizes and numbers of investments. This can put significant constraints on seed stage and early-stage companies in their ability to continue developing innovative technology (six of the 10 MAP awardees are developing technologies which emerged from Massachusetts research and academic institutions) and attract follow on investment.

“The milestone achievement program has been enabling for Mytide as it provides not only funding but external validation through the scientific advisory board process,” said Dale Thomas, co-founder of MAP awardee Mytide Therapeutics.

“Reveal has received tremendous support from the MLSC, first through the MassNextGen program, and now with the Milestone Achievement Program,” said Vera Hoffman, who serves as CEO at Reveal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Reveal was an inaugural awardee of the MLSC’s Massachusetts Next Generation Initiative (MassNextGen), a competitive program to support women entrepreneurs in early-stage life sciences companies.  “We are thrilled to have been selected for this award, which is enabling us to advance vital work toward a safer MRI contrast agent that will benefit millions of the most vulnerable patients.”

“The Milestone Achievement Program will help us obtain FDA marketing clearance for the Prapela SVS hospital bassinet pad,” said John Konsin, Co-founder and CEO of Prapela, Inc. Prapela is working to receive clearance for the device to treat neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition newborns experience as they withdraw from in-utero exposure to opioids “Hospitals across the country have asked us to inform them once we have FDA clearance. This award will greatly accelerate our progress.”

Early-stage programming like MAP bridges the funding gaps associated with long life sciences R&D cycles. The Commonwealth’s support for early-stage activity helps ensure a diversity of entrepreneurs within the life sciences industry, while enabling new partnerships and collaborations, acquisitions, and continued talent recruitment.

Overview of MAP Awardees:

Flaskworks – $200,000

Flaskworks is a Boston-based spinout from Northeastern University, which aims to address bottlenecks in the manufacturing of personalized cancer immunotherapies.  MLSC funding will enable Flaskworks to develop an automated system to manufacture CAR-T, TCR, and neoantigen-based T cell therapies via rapid prototyping and testing with real end-users.

Mytide Therapeutics, Inc. – $200,000

The focus of this early-stage startup is to overcome long-standing challenges in the production of peptides, an important class of therapeutics for a wide variety of serious conditions, ranging from cancer to inflammatory disorders and infectious diseases. The MLSC’s funding will support Mytide’s development and validation of its next-generation manufacturing platform RAC4E, standing for rapid automated computation, coupling, cleavage, chromatography execution platform, capable of rapidly producing peptides more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Gel4Med, Inc. – $200,000

The Lowell-based early-stage company is advancing tissue regeneration utilizing peptoid material technology to prevent surgical site infections in chronic, surgical, and traumatic wounds. MLSC funding will support the manufacturing scale up and commercialization of the company’s lead product to promote infection free wound closure.

Versatope Therapeutics – $193,000

Another Lowell-based company, Versatope Therapeutics is developing a universal influenza vaccine that has the potential to provide robust and durable immunity against multiple influenza. MLSC funding will support Versatope’s effort to create a traceable microbial cell line for master cell banking and establish a reproducible and consistent manufacturing process. These activities are critical to the manufacturing and quality control process for an influenza vaccine product.

Prapela – $200,000

Care for babies with breathing and irritability problems, whether at the hospital or home, has remained mostly unchanged for decades. The focus for Prapela is on the integration of its novel vibration technology, known as stochastic vibrotactile stimulation (SVS), into medical and consumer products to improve infant health. MLSC funding will support the Concord-based company’s completion of the clinical trial for its SVS hospital bassinet pad to treat infants.

XGenomes – $200,000

This company’s vision is to make DNA sequencing virtually error free, at a cost per genome of less than $10 with a sample-to-result time of just two hours. This will enable the benefits of sequencing to reach a wider spectrum of people, and potentially be a major driver of consumer and clinical genomics. MLSC funding will support the company’s development of a prototype for further optimization of XGenomes’ novel sequencing approach.

PhAST Corp. – $200,000

PhAST Corp. aims to accelerate infection disease diagnostics in order for medical practitioners to make informed treatment decisions much earlier than currently possible. The Cambridge-based company’s proprietary technology provides diagnostic information directly from patient samples, with a time-to-result in the tens of minutes range to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. MLSC funding will support PhAST’s performance evaluation of its technology using FDA metrics for antibiotic testing.

Reveal Pharmaceuticals, Inc – $200,000

We all know someone who has had a contrast-enhanced MRI. Every one of these people has accumulated the heavy metal gadolinium in their brain and body: the most vulnerable patients include children, people with kidney disease, and people who need repeat scans for screening, surveillance, management, or clinical trials. Reveal aims to solve this problem with a first-in-class gadolinium-free MRI contrast agent. Reveal’s agent is designed to be a direct substitute for current contrast agents, meeting the need for over 30 million scans per year. Reveal’s MLSC funding will support IND-enabling studies.

UrSure, Inc. – $196,800

This Allston-based startup has developed a novel, Point-of-Care test that measures and improves adherence to the drug Tenofovir. Tenofovir can both prevent and treat HIV, but its effectiveness has been limited by poor adherence.  This test will report results within minutes so that a medical provider can identify patients struggling with non-adherence and target resources to them. The MLSC’s funding will support UrSure’s FDA studies and the product’s commercialization.

Lumme, Inc. – $197,500

Lumme, located in Springfield, is developing a continuous health-monitoring platform that induces lasting patient behavior change by combining machine learning, wearable technology, and behavioral psychology. The company’s technology aims to address the opioid epidemic, marijuana, and other substance abuse patient populations. Lumme is offering its mobile-app based smoking cessation platform to employers as a way of introducing its product to the market. Lumme will use MLSC funding to develop a regulatory and reimbursement strategy to integrate the platform within these organizations.

The MLSC’s MAP initiative was previously launched in 2015. This first round of the program awarded more than $2 million to twelve early-stage life sciences companies. Among the awardees were: Platelet BioGenesis, which has since secured funding from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense; PathMaker Neurosystems, which recently announced a global partnership with Servier for its MyoRegulator™ technology to help paralyzed patients; and Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals, which was recently awarded $750,000 through the Tau Pipeline Enabling Program, a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association and the Tau Consortium.

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 device, diagnostics and digital health.  Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed over $700 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.