Institute for Protein Innovation Release: New Research Institute Promises To Transform Protein Science And Drug Discovery

BOSTON, May 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- A team of scientists from the Massachusetts biomedical community today launched a new research institute to expand protein science and enhance drug discovery.  Backed by a unique and collaborative combination of public investment and academic philanthropy, The Institute for Protein Innovation (IPI) brings together leaders in academic research, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and biomedical investing to seek new therapies for currently intractable diseases. 

Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D.

The IPI has a threefold mission: develop and share well-validated monoclonal antibodies targeting every extracellular protein in humans; train scientists from academic and industry labs; and create shared core facilities in protein expression, antibody discovery and biophysical analysis. The IPI's resources will also be available to non-affiliated industry and academic investigators.  Together with its partners, the IPI will enable worldwide advances in research and drug development, driven by the availability of its open-source antibody library.

"Over the past 20 years, proteins have transformed drug discovery and biomedical research, serving as the targets of almost all drugs and in many cases as therapeutic drugs themselves," said Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D., Latham Family Professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital and IPI's Founder.  "Despite their pivotal importance in research and medicine, proteins lag behind DNA and RNA in institutional research support and funding. The IPI fills this gap, providing intellectual capital from academia to empower protein research and pioneer new therapeutics that improve human health."

Central to the IPI mission is the creation of a library of high quality synthetic antibodies, which can be used as tools to enable drug discovery research, and may themselves become therapies for currently intractable diseases.

An important component in all IPI operations is a commitment to transparency. Antibodies that arise from the IPI's work will be validated by the international biomedical community and made widely available for analysis and research. Information related to DNA sequence, protein expression, and functional validation of these reagents will be curated in a web portal accessible to all. By democratizing these data and reagents, and making their source code available for further improvement, the IPI will accelerate the development of new therapeutics and complement the efforts of existing large-scale scientific initiatives such as the Human Cell Atlas.

"Advances in protein science are transforming biomedical discovery, and this field holds the promise to redefine the way we diagnose and treat some of the most devastating diseases," said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. "Bringing our ever-expanding knowledge in proteomics closer to therapeutics is essential.  This collaboration is a powerful illustration of the fruitful cross-pollination that occurs when academia, the public and private sectors, philanthropy and biotech come together."

The IPI has secured initial funding of $15 million, including a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and a $10 million foundational gift from Dr. Springer.  This funding will be complemented by additional philanthropy, research grant support and partnered research with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

For its first year of operations, the IPI is housed at Harvard Medical School, with plans to obtain long-term laboratory and office space in the Longwood Medical Area later this year. This will place the institute near Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and dozens of other world-class research and medical institutions.

In its first year the IPI also expects to create up to 10 new permanent jobs that will expand to 1920 positions by 2022. In addition to glycoprotein expression and antibody discovery expertise, the IPI will recruit talent and innovators in directed evolution, cell line development, and biophysical protein characterization.

"The Institute for Protein Innovation offers the promise for Boston Children's Hospital to develop new therapies for those with devastating diseases, who come to us from around the world," said David A. Williams, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Boston Children's Hospital.  "Our close relationship, together with Boston Children's own outstanding genomics program, will also enhance the training of the next generation of investigators seeking new treatments of pediatric diseases."

Leadership & Governance
The IPI was founded by Timothy Springer and Andrew C. Kruse, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School.  The IPI is led by a Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Board.  The board comprises:

  • Timothy Springer, Ph.D., Latham Family Professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. He is a world leader in structural biology and immunology and a successful entrepreneur and private investor. His research and company formation led to six FDA-approved drugs, including antibodies for treating cancer and immune diseases.
  • Jeffrey Flier, M.D., Higginson Professor of Physiology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Flier served as the 21st Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University, and he serves on the board of several nonprofits, including Brandeis University.
  • Maykin Ho, Ph.D., Managing Director, Viridian Global, has 24 years of experience in healthcare investment at Goldman Sachs & Co. She serves on the board of directors for Agios Pharmaceuticals, Parexel International, and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.
  • Amir Nashat, Ph.D., Managing Partner at Polaris Partners, focuses on investments in healthcare. He currently represents Polaris as a Director of eight biotechnology startup companies and has served as a Director of seven others. He has been named to the Forbes Midas List of "Top 100 Venture Capitalists."
  • Normand F. Smith is an attorney and partner at the firm Burns & Levinson, LLC. Mr. Smith has extensive experience in the areas of intellectual property, tax planning, and the formation and management of businesses in biotech. He has advised biotech entrepreneurs and scientists and served as general counsel to biotech companies.
  • K. Dane Wittrup, Ph.D., Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering at MIT, and Associate Director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Dr. Wittrup is founder and CSO of AdiMab and is responsible for many of the recent advances in directed evolution of biopharmaceutical proteins, including antibodies.

The Scientific Advisory Board includes:

  • David Baker, Ph.D., University of Washington Institute for Protein Design, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Stephen Blacklow, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
  • K. Christopher Garcia, Ph.D., Stanford University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Stephen C. Harrison, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston Children's Hospital
  • Harvey Lodish, Ph.D., MIT/Whitehead Institute
  • Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital
  • K. Dane Wittrup, Ph.D., MIT/Koch Institute
  • Clifford Woolf, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital
  • Leonard Zon, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

For more information about the Institute, please visit

The founding of the institute was also recently featured in the Vector Blog at Boston Children's Hospital, which can be viewed here:

About the Institute
Founded in 2017 by two academic scientists, the Institute for Protein Innovation (IPI) is designed to foster innovation in protein research and bridge the missing link between genomics and therapeutics. The IPI will advance biomedical research and development in three key ways:

  • Stimulate innovative research in protein science by providing critical tools, lead therapeutics, and technologies for academic and industry scientists;
  • Create an unparalleled environment for training and teaching the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in protein science and drug development; and
  • Serve as a cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary organization to forge new ties between academic and industry investigators

To achieve this mission, the IPI will build and operate an open- source antibody discovery platform, with the long-term goal of developing antibodies targeting the entire human proteome. This resource will enable worldwide advances in research and drug development, driven by the availability of its open-source antibody library.

Media Contact:
Daniel McIntyre

Andrew C. Kruse, Ph.D.

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SOURCE Institute for Protein Innovation

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