NIH Flooded Massachusetts with Research Grants in 2020

Boston area on map

BioSpace’s Genetown Hotbed highlights life sciences companies in Massachusetts. Boston is the area in the U.S. most densely populated with life sciences companies. As of 2020, there was a total of 3,895,215 square feet of laboratory space under construction in the area, according to the “Boston Life Sciences 2020” report.

Typically, the most funding by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes to universities or academic-research institutions. For example, in the Boston area, the number one recipient of NIH funds in 2020 in the Genetown Hotbed was Massachusetts General Hospital, which received $551,214,295 in grants.

Biopharma companies may receive NIH funding, but generally, not to the extent that academia does. However, the Genetown Hotbed has several biopharma companies that received significant funds from the NIH in 2020. Here’s a look at the top 10.

1. Alzheon

Location: Framingham, MA

NIH Funding: $15,000,000

Alzheon is a clinical-stage biopharma company that focuses on Alzheimer’s disease. The company’s lead product is ALZ-801, which began a Phase II clinical trial on October 27, 2020. The drug is an oral drug designed to block formation of neurotoxic soluble amyloid oligomers. The trial is focused on early Alzheimer’s disease patients who carry one or two copies of the e4 allele of the APOE4 gene. This patient population has a higher risk of rapid disease progression and seem to be more responsive to drugs that target pathogenic amyloid oligomers.

On August 20, 2020, the company received a five-year, $47 million grant from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the NIH to support a Phase III trial of ALZ-801.

2. BioSensics

Location: Newton, MA

NIH Funding: $6,852,835

Biosensics was founded in 2007 by three Harvard University researchers and focuses on creating wearable sensors for healthcare and the medical alert industry. It offers turnkey solutions for the collection and transfer of data from wearable sensors, mobile applications and digital technologies during site visits and at patients’ homes. Its products include BioDigit Home, BioDigit Cloud, BioDigit Clinic and BioDigit Database.

3. Microbiotix

Location: Worcester, MA

NIH Funding: $6,132,413

Microbiotix is a clinical-stage biopharma company focused on discovering and developing proprietary small molecule drugs that target serious infectious diseases, including multi-drug resistant pathogens. It has consistently been the top recipient of NIH grants amongst Massachusetts biopharma companies. Its lead compound is MBX-400 (filociclovir) for cytomegalovirus-related infections in transplant recipients. On March 17, 2020, the company received a $2.86 million funding award from CARB-X to develop a new oral antibiotic to treat multidrug-resistant gonorrhea. It will also be eligible for another $16 million in funding from CARB-X. CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) is a global non-profit partnership focused on early development for antibacterials.

4. Seven Bridges Genomics

Location: Charlestown, MA

NIH Funding: $4,500,000

Seven Bridges Genomics specializes in software and data analytics, delivering end-to-end bioinformatics solutions, including access to datasets, analytic workflows and algorithms, cloud-computing infrastructure, and scientific support. On November 5, 2020, the company announced it was participating in the Data Management and Portal for INCLUDE (DAPI) Project, which is creating a world-class platform for data sharing, data access and integrative analysis in Down Syndrome. INCLUDE is an NIH program launched in 2018, which has a goal of improving the quality of life for people with Down syndrome.

5. Clear Scientific

Location: Cambridge, MA

NIH Funding: $4,157,125

Clear Scientific is working to develop countermeasures to chemical threat agents and to treat acute intoxication caused by substance abuse. For example, the company received a $12 million grant in October 2020 from the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop an antidote against acute intoxication from fentanyl and its derivatives. In January 2021, it received Department of Defense (DoD) funding to develop inkjet-printable sensors for the detection of hazardous compounds. The sensors can be quickly printed from commercial inkjet printers as needed.

6. Versatope Therapeutics

Location: Lowell, MA

NIH Funding: $4,107,847

On September 9, 2020, Versatope Therapeutics was awarded a Phase I Small Business and Innovation Award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the NIH, to develop a novel vaccine to prevent and treat Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections. The company focuses on developing an immunotherapy platform using recombinant vesicles from probiotic bacteria.

7. Micro-Leads

Location: Somerville, MA

NIH Funding: $3,967,703

Micro-Leads focuses on developing innovative therapies that address the neuromodulation and bioelectronic medicine market. It is developing a high-resolution spinal cord stimulation therapy to treat chronic back and focal pains without opioids.

8. Q-State Biosciences

Location: Cambridge, MA

NIH Funding: $3,620,090

Q-State Biosciences is a discovery-stage therapeutics company working on treatment of epilepsy, pain, and other disorders of the central nervous system. On February 8, 2021, the company announced it had achieved the primary program completion milestone in its research collaboration with Chamishi Therapeutics. In joint collaboration with The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA, Q-State designed a series of optimized preclinical antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) candidates as potential treatments for several neurological disorders, including Glucosylceramidase Beta Acid (GBA)-Parkinson’s disease.

9. NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals

Location: Cambridge, MA

NIH Funding: $3,286,474

NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals focuses on discovering new antibiotics targeting serious drug-resistant infections. On June 16, 2020, the company was awarded a three-year, $3 million SBIR Phase III NIH NIAID grant titled “Teixobactin Development for Anthrax.” The goal is to develop teixobactin as a countermeasure for a weaponized anthrax attack. Teixobactin has high potency against Bacillus anthracis. In April 2020, it received a $600,000 two-year grant from NIH NIAID to discover new antibiotics by investigating a newly discovered genus of bacteria.

10. Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI)

Location: Andover, MA

NIH Funding: $3,164,448

Physical Sciences Inc (PSI) provides technology solutions and innovative products to government and commercial customers, with product areas including sensors/instruments, medical, stand off sensors, lasers, aerospace/materials and algorithms. On August 27, 2020, it received a $3.1 million Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Targeted Technologies (START) grant for its Imperia Batteries for specialty high energy lithium ion batteries and its IOScann – Intelligent Optical Scanner for guiding breast surgeries. MassVentures provides equity financing to early-stage startups and grant funding to SBIR/STTR Phase II funded entities in Massachusetts.

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