EXCLUSIVE: Moleculera Labs Will Add Close to A Dozen As It Doles Out $300K Grant

Published: Jul 08, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Moleculera Labs Will Add Close to A Dozen As It Doles Out $300K Grant
July 8, 2015
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

Moleculera Labs plans to add close to a dozen scientific and administrative staff by 2019, and up to 30 more by 2022, the company’s CEO told BioSpace . Wednesday, as it begins to dole out a two-year, $300,000 matching grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

Craig Shimasaki, president and chief executive officer of Moleculera, said the Oklahoma City-based company will use part of the grant on commercialization and plans to hire additional staffing not just in the lab, but in its support and sales teams as well.

The grant is intended to nurture the development and clinical validation of new diagnostic testing panels to identify autoantibodies directed against neuronal antigens in patients experiencing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These panels are typically used to help doctors find a subset of patients whose symptoms may actually be caused by underlying treatable infection-triggered autoimmune and inflammatory responses.

“Scientific findings are increasingly pointing to interactions between infectious agents and the human immune system as a potential trigger for at least a portion of the chronic neurological conditions that affect humans,” Shimasaki told BioSpace.

“Our goal is to continue to discover and implement clinical laboratory tests that help physicians better identify the underlying cause of these illnesses to better treat such patients,” said Shimasaki.

Research by Madeleine Cunningham, Moleculera’s co-founder and chief scientific officer, and her team has led the company to create the Cunningham Panel, which measures relevant anti-neuronal antibodies and neuronal cell-activating antibodies circulating in the patient’s blood. It also measures the activity of a key enzyme in the brain involved in the up-regulation of many neurotransmitters including dopamine.

“Our Cunningham panel for PANS and PANDAS was a first step, and this expanded effort in neuropsychiatric diseases is a follow-on to our platform. It is our aim to become a leading provider of tools and testing that help improve understanding about the relationships between infections and neurological diseases and thus, enable clinicians to more effectively diagnose and treat such conditions.”

As New Jersey Biotech Booms, Will It Overtake Other States As Prime Location?
A week after Celgene Corporation announced it is officially the mystery buyer of Merck & Co. ’s former 1 million-square-foot R&D site in Summit, N.J., it quickly became our most popular story last week.

The company announced last Wednesday that it is buying the space, ending months of speculation about what Big Pharma company might move into the neighborhood.

The Summit, N.J. site is zoned research/office. The New Jersey site would put operations closer to some of the major biotech and pharmaceutical hubs on the East Coast.

But, by far, the most tempting part of doing business in the state remains New Jersey’s operating tax credit, which allows companies to sell their net operating losses to the New Jersey Treasury. One of the state’s most recognizable biotechs, Celgene, used the program until it became profitable, which was key to it staying in the state, said local officials.

That has BioSpace is wondering if New Jersey is becoming the new face of biotech. What do you think? Can the Garden State compete with other longtime stalwarts like California or Boston?

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