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Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Board Approves Cooperative Research Matching Grants


4/27/2011 1:26:35 PM

Waltham, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency tasked with implementing the state’s ten-year, $1 billion life sciences initiative, today announced the awarding of $1 million in cooperative research matching grants to support two innovative research collaborations between industry and Massachusetts’ world-class academic institutions. The Center’s Cooperative Research Matching Grant Program funds collaborations among scientists, academic institutions and industry that promise significant commercial potential and are scientifically meritorious. The Center’s Board of Directors approved the second round of Cooperative Research Matching Grants today. The grants will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the industry partners associated with each collaboration.

“By supporting translational research, the Center seeks to accelerate the commercialization of science and technology, with the goal of strengthening the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem through economic development and job creation,” said Dr. Susan Windham Bannister, President & CEO of the Center. “The Cooperative Research Matching Grant Program builds on the Center’s strategy of using public investments to leverage private sector resources as we pursue our dual mission of job creation and support for good science that will improve the human condition.”

“After rigorous review by me and other members of the Life Sciences Center’s Scientific Advisory Board, we recommended these two grants as holding great potential for both scientific advancement and commercialization,” said Dr. Harvey Lodish, Chair of the Center’s Scientific Advisory Board, Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Professor of Biology and Professor of Bioengineering at MIT. “Important advances in medicine can only be realized and treatments can only be developed and brought to market if the relevant research is funded. These are sensible investments for the Commonwealth that will both create jobs and advance scientific knowledge.”

The first round of Cooperative Research Matching Grants were awarded by the Center in December, 2008 and provided $3.7 million to support six innovative research projects with scientific and commercial potential. The recipients were Dr. Rudolf Faust of UMass Lowell partnered with Boston Scientific, Dr. Judy Lieberman of the Immune Disease Institute partnered with Epic Therapeutics, Dr. David Weitz of Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences partnered with Raindance Technologies, Dr. Andrew Luster of Massachusetts General Hospital partnered with Idera Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Richard Lee and Dr. Parth Patwari of Brigham & Women’s Hospital partnered with Biomeasure Inc., and Dr. Michael Czech and Dr. Gary Ostroff of UMass Medical School partnered with RXi Pharmaceuticals.

"The Center’s grant has been invaluable to help me develop a new approach to preventing sexually transmitted virus infection such as herpes and HIV,” said Dr. Lieberman of the Immune Disease Institute. “Funding from the NIH is now very tight, and the Center’s funding provides welcome assistance."

The recipients announced today are:

Dr. Qianqian Fang/MGH/Philips Healthcare- $250,000 per year for two years

Dr. Qianqian Fang at Massachusetts General Hospital will collaborate with medical equipment provider Philips Healthcare (Andover, MA) to develop a combined optical and mammographic imaging device that can make multi-modality breast imaging readily available for over 9,000 x-ray systems in the US. The researchers hope to improve mammography diagnosis and lower health care costs by reducing false positives through fusing mammography with functional tissue information. Over the past decade, Fang and collaborators have been working on combining safe, non-invasive diffuse optical imaging technology with structural digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) and have demonstrated the clinical potential of using this multi-modality imaging approach to reduce unnecessary follow-ups and biopsies and improve the accuracy of cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Robert Brown/ UMass Medical School/RXi Pharmaceuticals-$250,000 per year for two years

Dr. Robert Brown of UMass Medical School will work with RXi Pharmaceuticals (Worcester, MA) to develop a new treatment for ALS using “selfdelivering rxRNA” (sd-rxRNA) that does not require a delivery vehicle to enter cells and has improved pharmacology compared to traditional RNA treatments. ALS is currently incurable and almost 100% fatal within 5 years. The principle investigator, Dr. Brown, is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on the biological basis of ALS. The work focuses on delivery to the spinal cord and brain to silence the SOD1 gene in ALS, and their findings may be useful for other diseases of the central nervous system. This is the second Cooperative Research Matching Grant awarded to UMass Medical School in collaboration with RXi.

“This Cooperative Research Matching Grant from the Life Sciences Center is a perfect mechanism to combine our research strengths in breast imaging at MGH with the industrial design and clinical market accessibility of Philips Healthcare, giving us an incredible boost in accelerating the clinical translation of state-of-the-art optical imaging techniques,” said Dr. Fang.

“In the spirit of our commitment to women’s healthcare and improving patient outcomes, we are enthusiastic about this collaboration that brings the expertise at MGH and Philips Healthcare together,” said Pamela Bankert, SVP & GM of the Women’s Healthcare and Diagnostics X-ray Business at Philips Healthcare. “The combination of mammography with functional imaging using optical technology could potentially lead to earlier breast cancer diagnosis thereby increasing the therapeutic options for women,”

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (“the Center”) is a quasi-public agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tasked with implementing the Massachusetts Life Sciences Act, a ten-year, $1 billion initiative that was signed into law in June of 2008. The Center’s mission is to create jobs in the life sciences and support vital scientific research that will improve the human condition. This work includes making financial investments in public and private institutions that are advancing life sciences research, development and commercialization as well as building ties between sectors of the Massachusetts life sciences community. For more information, visit www.masslifesciences.com.

About the Cooperative Research Matching Grant Program

The Cooperative Research Solicitation seeks to increase industry-sponsored research at universities and colleges in Massachusetts in order to facilitate scientific discoveries and inventions that lead to beneficial medical applications. A successful applicant will receive a grant of up to $250,000 per year for two years, in a 1:1 match with its industry partner.


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