Eight Connecticut Teams Awarded BioScience Pipeline Grants to Advance Human Health

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Connecticut Innovations-funded BioScience Pipeline Awards $240,000 in grant funding to eight projects to assist in creating economic value and transforming human health.

"The university collaboration we formed in this project would not have happened without BioPipeline."

The BioScience Pipeline Program, funded by Connecticut Innovations, recently awarded grants to eight projects from local innovators affiliated with Yale University, the University of Connecticut (UConn), and Quinnipiac University.

The BioScience Pipeline program was founded in September 2015 to enhance biomedical commercialization by providing milestone-based funding of up to $30,000 per project. In its fourth award round, this $500,000 per year pilot program provides critical funding to interdisciplinary ventures for business strategy, market definition, and prototyping activities. Awarded projects were selected based on their potential to create economic value and transform human health.

Notably, half of the awards went to projects in the digital healthcare space, two of which include wearables. One project, led by Sandra Saldana, PhD, MBA, seeks to develop a wearable device to monitor neurological symptoms and provide earlier detection of stroke. Another project is an academic-industry proposal between Yale School of Medicine and Archetyp Mobility, a company that specializes in developing custom web and mobile-based applications for healthcare researchers. This project, led by E. Kevin Hall, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and Lajos Pusztai, MD, DPhil, Yale Chief of Breast Medical Oncology, will leverage BioScience Pipeline Funding to create web and cell phone applications and software tools to pair cancer patients with relevant, personalized clinical trials. Dr. Pusztai notes that “only 5% of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials in the USA…ultimately we hope that this tool will empower a larger number of patients to seek out and participate in clinical trials.” Ludmila Kvochina, MD, PhD is leading a digital project from Quinnipiac University with John Huston, Nicholas Molina, Elena Bertozzi, PhD, and Norman Gray, PhD, that aims to help medical students improve their board scores. Finally, Baikun Li, PhD, PE, a UConn Centennial Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team are creating a wearable sensor to continually monitor skin physiology for an array of health-related conditions.

The other awards will catalyze the development of various medical devices. Corey Acker, PhD, of UConn Health Center, received a BioScience Pipeline award to optimize voltage-sensitive dyes to be used for cardiac safety studies and high-throughput drug screening. Assistant Professor Insoo Kim, PhD, also from the UConn Health Center, received an award to accelerate the development of more sensitive electronic hearing protection devices. A project led by Alexander Schulz, MD, PhD from Yale combines expertise in ovarian cancer biology and materials science to create a clinical device that can remove an important signaling molecule in cancer metastasis from the blood of cancer patients. Finally, Savas Tasoglu, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UConn, received a BioScience Pipeline Award to create a portable, low-cost device for at-home sperm fertility monitoring.

These eight awardees join 21 other funded projects from previous rounds, selected from 86 total applications over two years (with a funding rate of 34.5%). Previous BioScience Pipeline awardees include:

  • StraDEFY, a nanoparticle-based sunscreen and therapeutic platform, deployed BioScience Pipeline funding to establish Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) protocols and achieve IRB approval for a pilot clinical trial. Furthermore, StraDEFY received follow-on funding of $100,000 through a Yale Blavatnik award. Actively supported by Yale resources, including Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT), this company is currently engaged in licensing and investor discussions. W. Mark Saltzman, PhD, Goizueta Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Yale, noted that “this funding enabled us to translate our exciting pre-clinical nanoparticle drug delivery technology into initial human clinical trials, a huge value creator.”
  • Spring Health, a tool that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to select suitable treatments for depression, leveraged BioScience Pipeline funding to establish pilot agreements and create a prototype for clinical evaluation. Spring Health is working with major insurance companies and recently closed a $2M seed round. According to April Koh, Spring co-founder, “The BioPipeline award was critical for helping us refine our product and corporate strategy and move on to raise an additional $2M in funding.”
  • Oral Fluid Dynamics is an artificial salivary gland project that was established at UConn. Fueled by BioScience Pipeline funding, this venture has received three UConn SPARK grants and was selected for the UConn Technology Incubation Program (TIP) and Accelerate UConn, an NSF I-Corps program. This team submitted a $2M NIH STTR direct to Phase 2 grant, engaged several strategic manufacturing partners, and has developed relationships with CT-based companies for sourcing.
  • Pure Marrow, a system for improved bone marrow and stem cell harvesting, utilized BioScience Pipeline funding to create a prototype and conduct preclinical validation. The team was sponsored by the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT) to attend the Commercialization Readiness Assessment and Accelerator for Solutions in Healthcare (CRAASH) course and received follow-on funding of $100,000 through a Yale Blavatnik award. With continuing support from CBIT and other Yale resources, the company is currently engaged in licensing and investor discussions.

In addition to individual milestones achieved by teams, the BioScience Pipeline program enables inter-university collaborations and local economic development. Teams awarded grants in the first three funding rounds have received $2.9M in follow-on investment and grant funding, and 39% of these teams have incorporated.

"The university collaboration we formed in this project would not have happened without BioPipeline," said Ryan Grant, MD, MS, who is affiliated with both Yale and Quinnipiac University. "The funding and guidance has gone a very long way in prototyping and advancing toward the regulatory and commercialization process."

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