Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Inc. Release: Four Startups Chosen to Bring Innovations to Next Level

Published: Jun 28, 2013

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Four Startups Chosen to Bring Innovations to Next Level

June 28, 2013 (CAMBRIDGE, MA) — Four entrepreneurs tackling significant healthcare and research challenges including nonsurgical alternatives to gastric bypass surgery, adherence to treatment in cystic fibrosis, boosting stem cells anti-inflammatory responses, and tracking complex patterns in mice used for neuroscience research have been chosen for the latest round of MassCONNECT.

MassCONNECT, MassBio’s life sciences and healthcare entrepreneur mentorship program, kicked off its second cycle of 2013 today with a Technology Showcase, where chosen entrepreneurs presented their ideas to a room of industry executives and mentors.

For the next 8-10 weeks, these entrepreneurs—chosen for their innovative technologies, products, or services—are paired with seasoned life sciences professionals for evaluation and advice as they work toward developing business plans, launching companies, and raising capital.

“MassCONNECT energizes the life sciences ecosystem and advances innovation by connecting inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources needed for success,” said John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer at MassBio.

The applicants chosen for the latest round of mentorship are:

AWARE Engineering, LLC: Integrated Modular health platform (IHP) for CF patients

Robert Schultz, Eli Goldberg & Scott Lachau

Boston, MA & Zurich, Switzerland

The Aware Engineering ( IHP integrates the various CF health management equipment and components like a pill organizer, a medical grade air compressor, a medical grade steam sterilizer, a medical grade refrigerator, and a chest physical therapy or compression vest system - all of which are required for compliance with state-of-the-art CF therapy. To better monitor and personalize medical treatment, AWARE anticipates developing a hardware-software compliance tracking and treatment reminder system for use with the IHP. By reducing equipment embarrassment and allowing work and therapy to be performed simultaneously, the IHP will increase time for friends, family, and fun; decrease the time costs associated with treatment and, therefore, improve adherence. Consequently, we expect the IHP to improve quality-of-life, decrease morbidity, and result in improved care management economics for those afflicted with CF.

MVMT (Machine Vision for Morphological Tracking): A Comprehensive and Quantitative Animal Behavior Monitoring

Platform for CNS Target and Drug Discovery and Preclinical Development

Sandeep Robert Datta & Alexander Bame Wiltschko

Cambridge, MA

Investigators have created a 3D machine vision system that reveals the actions and action assembly statistics that define the behaviorome via depth cameras to image and capture the 3D morphology of a mouse in real-time as it behaves. This enables generation of graphical representations of behavioral states and map sequences of states that together constitute specific complex behaviors as well as predicting future states.

Nivarta: Novel target drug development company for diabetes and obesity

Murali Vemula

Cambridge, MA

Nivarta ( is an early stage drug discovery company that is focused on identifying novel gut secreted proteins that are involved in gastric bypass surgery mediated alleviation of diabetes and weight loss. While the surgery yields tremendous metabolic benefits, it is highly invasive, non-reversible, and the long-term complications are poorly understood. Hence, there is significant interest in the industry to develop alternate non-surgical approaches based on protein therapeutics and small molecule drugs that generate the anti-obesity and anti-diabetes effect of metabolic surgery. At Nivarta, we are pursuing an approach based on genomics and targeted proteomics in combination with in vitro and in vivo screening to identify novel drug targets.

Tufts Medical School and JouR, Inc: NGF and NT-3 mimicking synthetic peptide technology that stimulate progenitor cell growth, survival and immunomodulation

Mercio Perrin

Boston, MA

Research at Tufts has led to the discovery of a protein made by T cruzi, called parasite-derived neurotrophic factor (PDNF), that functionally mimics nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), thereby potently triggering cardiac stem/progenitor cell (CPC) growth, survival and immunomodulation. An injectable compound that expands resident stem cells and stimulates them to secrete anti-inflammatories is a sought-after, but thus far elusive, goal. PDNF represents such an agent. PDNF triggers expansion of CPCs and secretion of TSG-6, demonstrating its promise as a leading drug in regenerative medicine for illness such as CCC, postmyocardial inflammation, type-1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Its potential is akin, for example, to erythropoietin therapy to boost erythrocyte production from bone marrow progenitor cells in patients with anemia.

Each of these entrepreneurs is working with a team of mentors and an MBA student with expertise that fits their needs. The mentors and entrepreneurs will meet several times over the next two months to collaborate on a business plan for the proposed new technology or platform. The program culminates with entrepreneurs making their first pitch to a small group of venture capitalists and other possible investors. To date, 12% of MassCONNECT graduates have received funding following their graduation from the program, while others have met board members or CEOs through the program.

This cycle of MassCONNECT is sponsored by Choate Hall & Stewart LLP. Choate Hall & Stewart LLP is providing eight mentors for the cycle: William P. Asher, Jr., Brian D. Goldstein, Daniel S. Matthews, Rolando Medina, PhD, Atsuko N. Polzin, PhD, Gerald E. Quirk, David G. Rickerby, and Arun P. Swain.

“We are very excited to be working with MassCONNECT and these forward-thinking entrepreneurs,” said William B. Asher, Partner and co-chair of the Life Sciences Group at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP. “We represent life science companies at every stage in their business lifecycle and look forward to helping these start-ups position themselves for fundraising and future marketplace success. These young companies are an important part of our region’s vibrant life sciences innovation environment and it is an honor to be supporting this program as a mentor and sponsor.”

MassCONNECT is open to opportunities that involve the development of a new technologies, products, services, applications, or processes in the life sciences area. Typically, these will include new diagnostic tests, pre-clinical therapeutic molecules, platform technologies, and/or instrumentation.

For more information, or to apply to be a mentor, mentee, or MBA intern, visit

About MassBio

MassBio, a not-for-profit organization that represents and provides services and support for the Massachusetts biotechnology industry, is the nation's oldest biotechnology trade association. Founded in 1985, MassBio is committed to advancing the development of critical new science, technology and medicines that benefit people worldwide. Representing over 600 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, research hospitals, and service organizations involved in life sciences and health care, MassBio works to advance policy and promote education, while providing member programs and events, industry information, and services.

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