May 6, 2020

Inside a UMass Lowell lab where companies race to unlock COVID-19

“It’s a space where we can help start-up companies working in life sciences get access to equipment, the technical expertise, the business expertise that they need to move forward.”

The Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) is one of five organizations now splitting a $1.5 billion federal grant under a program called “Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics.” Also called RADx, this is an effort to get good ideas off the ground faster.

Versatope Therapeutics is another start-up working in M2D2. Versatope is developing a universal influenza vaccine that has the potential to provide robust and durable immunity against multiple influenza. The company is now shifting gears in order to respond to the present pandemic.

In September 2019, Versatope was one of 10 early-stage life sciences companies in Massachusetts to receive funding 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. 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.

The MLSC was also the lead funder of M2D2. A joint partnership between UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester, M2D2 is a business incubator that helps medical device and biotech startups bridge the gap between idea and market. Since its inception in 2007, M2D2 has assisted more than 100 companies.