Regencor and Nitrome Biosciences Announced as 2019 Amgen Golden Ticket Winners


Amgen and MBC BioLabs announced Regencor and Nitrome Biosciences as this year’s winners of the Amgen Golden Ticket. The award provides priority admission or a one-year renewal for lab bench space and access to core facilities at the MBC BioLabs life sciences incubator. Each was awarded an Amgen Golden Ticket.

MBC BioLabs focuses on helping life science startups. It rents space as small as a single laboratory bench and provides access to a broad array of equipment. It has two locations, one in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood and an expanding campus in San Carlos, California.

The incubator has developed partnerships with numerous biopharma companies besides Amgen, including AbbVie, Celgene and Eli Lilly, as well as venture capital firm Mission Bay Capital.

Since opening in 2013, MBC BioLabs has helped launch 128 companies that have gone on to raise more than a combined $3.2 billion.

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“Amgen is dedicated to addressing important scientific questions to advance care and improve the lives of patients with serious diseases, including oncology, cardiovascular, immunological and neurological disease,” stated Saptarsi Haldar, vice president of research at Amgen South San Francisco. “Regencor and Nitrome Biosciences are doing extraordinary work in these therapeutic areas and funding such early-stage innovation is critical.”

Regencor is working on a therapy to regenerate the heart after a heart attack. It discovered a hypo-glylcosylated variation of the human protein, Follistatin-Like 1 (hgFSTL-1), which is capable of regenerating cardiac muscle and blood vessels while reducing scar volume.

The company’s chief scientific officer is Pilar Ruiz-Lozano, formerly an associate professor at Stanford University whose expertise is the genetics of cardiac repair and epicardial signaling. The president and chief executive officer is Thomas Okarma, who previously headed Geron Corporation, and held roles at Rhone Poulenc Rorer and Applied Immune Sciences. Mark Mercola is a director and a Professor of Medicine at Stanford. Nabil Dib is Clinical Head EpicaBead Development. Dib is Director of Cardiovascular Research at Dignity Health in Phoenix, Arizona and the founder and president of the International Society for Cardiovascular Translational Research. And finally, Jane Lebkowski, president of R&D, Regenerative Patch Technologies, acts as Regencor’s advisor.

“We are excited to receive Amgen’s Golden Ticket Award, which will support our laboratory bench work at the San Carlos MBC BioLabs facility,” stated Okarma. “We look forward to interacting with Amgen’s Cardiometabolic R&D group to help us advance our mission: to regenerate the human heart after a heart attack, thereby restoring cardiac function, reducing progression to heart failure, and improving the quality of life for heart attack patients worldwide.”

Nitrome Biosciences has identified a new class of enzymes that catalyze protein post-translocation modifications that are associated with neurodegenerative diseases and age-related disorders. It is working to develop drugs that target an enzyme to treat Parkinson’s Disease.

The company’s chief executive officer and chief scientific officer is Irene Griswold-Prenner, previously cofounder and CSO of Imago Pharmaceuticals. Ephraim Heller is Nitrome’s chairman. He is the founding chief executive officer of SynAgile. Zach Hall is a director. He is a retired neuroscientist whose last official role was as the president of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. He was also the director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke from 1994 to 1997. Additional directors include Bill McDowell, retired from Royal Bank of Canada, Regis B. Kelly, director of QB3, and Karen Chen, chief executive officer of the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation.

Sami Hussain Nitrome’s scientist and Vu Dang is the senior scientist.

“We are thrilled to have won Amgen’s Golden Ticket,” stated Griswold-Prenner. “This comes at a critical juncture for Nitrome Biosciences as we are currently initiating discussions with venture firms for Series A funding. Amgen’s interest in our approach provides important additional validation for Nitrome. MBC BioLabs’ facilities and support continue to be instrumental in fostering Nitrome’s rapid research progression.”

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