Five Biotech Startups Tapped for MassCONNECT Summer Mentorship Program

Published: Jul 06, 2018 By

Start up

Five startups have been tapped to join the MassCONNECT Summer Mentorship, a mentoring program provided through MASSBio. The startups were selected as representatives of “the unbelievable innovation spinning out of academia in Massachusetts.”

The five startups selected for the mentorship are focused on preventing disease in vulnerable communities, monitoring patient health for clinical trials, accelerating infectious disease diagnostics, revolutionizing treatment of ear infections, and preventing neurotoxicity that drives neurogenerative diseases. Throughout their experience with the MassCONNECT program, the entrepreneurs are paired with a team of mentors for eight weeks of hands-on coaching as they seek to develop business plans, launch companies and raise capital.

The companies selected for the mentorship program are:

Emerald: Cofounded by Rahul Hariharan, Rumen Hristo and Zach Kabelac, Emerald is a noncontact health monitoring platform for clinical trials. The platform produced a set of accurate metrics that are related to motion, gait, behavior, respiration and sleep. Additionally, the platform has been developed to assist in the improved quality of life for patients because Emerald eliminates the need for patients to wear devices or change their behavior in any way. The platform technology has a “novel Wi-Fi-like sensor” that transmits low-power radio signals. The developers said Emerald used artificial intelligence and signal-processing algorithms to analyze how the radio signals “reflect off the human body and derive a variety of health metrics.”

PhagePro: An early-stage biotech company, PhagePro was founded by Minmin Yen, Andrew Camilli and Matthew Merigh. PhagePro develops bacteriophage-based products, viruses that target and kill bacteria, to prevent bacterial infections in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. The company said with the rise of antibiotic resistance, as well as the “known negative consequences of gut dysbiosis caused by broad-spectrum antibiotics,” bacteriophages “provide a side-effect-free alternative for preventing disease in clinical and community contexts.” The company’s lead product ProphaLytic-VC, is an orally administered bacteriophage cocktail that specifically kills the bacteria that cause cholera and will be used as an intervention for household members of cholera patients in vulnerable communities. 

PhAST: Cofounded by Kwangmin Son and Roman Stocker, PhAST has developed an innovative technology to accelerate infectious disease diagnostics, as well as help solve the challenge of antibiotic resistance. PhAST has developed technology that addresses slow diagnostic approaches by “providing rapid diagnostic results based on proprietary computer vision algorithms that quantify changes in pathogen phenotypes upon antibiotic exposure.” The startup company said its technology can be applied to all major diagnostic steps including pathogen detection, species identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing. The technology can also work directly from patient body fluid samples.

PionEar Technologies, Inc.: PionEar Technologies is a medical device company developing several cutting-edge solutions for ear and hearing disorders. The startup was co-founded by Ida Pavlichenko, Nicole Black, Jennifer Lewis and. Joanna Aizenberg. PionEar’s first product is a novel minimally invasive tympanostomy tube that prevents cellular and bacterial adhesion and improves drug delivery to the middle and inner ears. The company hopes its device will revolutionize the treatment of chronic ear infections and hearing loss.

Smith Therapeutics: Smith Therapeutics is a neuro-immunology biotech founded in Boston in November 2017 by former immunology professor Philip Ashton-Rickardt. Smith will use immunosuppressive T regulatory cells (Treg) engineered with Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) specific for brain glial cells (CAR-TregG platform) to shut down the neurotoxicity that drives neurogenerative diseases (NDD). Through strategic partnerships, the startup company will allow clinical proof of concept (POC) for the CAR-TregG platform in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a rare but fatal NDD that shares features with more common NDD such as Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) but which allows expedited clinical evaluation.

“We are honored to enroll the innovative teams from Emerald, PhagePro, PhAst Diagnostics, PionEar, and Smith Therapeutics into MassCONNECT Cycle II 2018, and grateful to be a part of their noble mission to address unmet medical need with fresh ideas and novel technologies,” John Hallinan, chief business officer at MassBIO said in a statement.

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