On Thursday, May 2, 2013, OLC attended the New York City Emerging Technologies Summit at Mount Sinai. The event was spearheaded by NYC Tech Connect to bring together 11 of New York City’s premier academic research institutions under one roof. The goal was to find a way to commercialize bioscience technology, and the 20 presenters and the panel persuasively demonstrated their desire to reach out to the investor community.
To begin the event, Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of Partnership Fund for New York City briefly talked about the state of biotechnology in New York City. She congratulated the participants and praised their innovative ideas.
Steffen Mueller, co-founder of Codagenix presented Live-Attenuated Vaccine Strains that are Antigenically Identical to Wildtype. Codagenix developed a breakthrough technology to live-attenuated vaccine called SAVE [Synthetic Attenuated Virus Engineering]. SAVE relies on synthetic biology. “We recoded the viral genome for slow translation,” Mueller said. “We deoptimized viral genome and synthesized it. This weakened version serves as the potent live attenuated vaccine.” The vaccine strains are 100% identical to the wildtype, which is the original strain. The vaccine is also genetically stable and an ultra low dose is sufficient enough to protect against the virus. “Codagenix is better than the current LAIV and the flu shot. Our proposal is to take the strains and replicate them to get 100 percent identical match,” he said.
Next, Sabine Brouxhon took the podium to present A Novel Therapeutic Cancer Target and Composition that Down-Regulates Key Resistance Pathways. “Over the last decade, the most significant advances in technology have been the introduction of targeted monoclonal antibodies,” Brouxhon said. But she quickly revealed that patients developed a resistance or acquired resistance against it, “deeming the therapy ineffective within one year of treatment.” If patients did not go to therapy regularly, the cancer would come back. To counter this, Brouxhon’s solution is to regulate multiple HERs [alternate receptor tyrosine kinases]. She and her colleagues discovered an antibody that over comes the host’s resistance. “We saw reduction in tumor cells in testing. We successfully reduced breast cancer and skin cancer cells among many.” Brouxhon believes that they are on the track to go through an accelerated Federal approval.
Repairogen was the third in the lineup to present. Frederico Lourenco of Weill Cornell Medical College was the speaker. According to Lourenco, the co-founder of Repairogen, the company will being a revolutionary breakthrough to skincare. “We will revolutionize skin care. Our product reduces UV-induced skin damage, reduce skin again and reduce the development of skin cancer. This is all done through a topical skin application,” he said. Women spend $8.5 billion on skin care products and there are over 2 million new cases of skin cancer every year. Repairogen seeks to solve this problem using their CUL4 Ubiquitous Ligase Inhibitors. “Using this in controlled testing, we found out that 90 percent of the time, there were no skin cancer that developed on the skin. Our next step is to complete safety and toxicity testing. We plan to partner up with cosmetic companies,” he said. Lourenco also revealed that Repairogen did not need FDA approval to start commercialization of their product.
Ulrich Steidl presented Diagnostic and Theraputic Targeting os Stem Cells in Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Myelodysplastic Syndromes. Stiedl explained that he and his team were currently focused on the mass of tumors. “The elimination of the cells are not the problem,” he said. “The problem is relapsing after initial therapy. We needed to find different ways of treating the tumorous cells.” Steidl revealed that analysis of the earliest definable stem and progenitive cell populations is a powerful strategy to identify targets. Unlike the current treatment strategies, Steidl’s targets permit the specific disease- sustaining stem and progenitor stem compartments. “We need to move away from leukemia stem cells to pre-leukemia stem cells,” he said.
Roman Perez-Soler of Albert Einstein College of Medicine talked at length about a method to treat lung cancer. His presentation was aptly titled, Method to Treat Lung Cancer and Bronchial Pre-Malignancies Using Aerosolized 5-azacytidine. “Lung cancer is caused by cumulative epigenetic and genetic damage to the bronchial epthelium. This is a process that takes years, so we can treat where the lesions are before the cancer develops. Exhaled breaths can be used to detect early methylation changes in the lungs and monitor the effects of demethylizing therapies.” The therapy entails the patient placed in a tent and wearing an inhaler to not contaminate the environment. The procedure takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes. “Inhaled Aza causes minimal lung toxicity,” Perez-Soler said. “It results in minimal systemic absorption.” Perez-Soler and his team are currently supported by NIH.
Martin Sadowski presented Post-Transcriptional Modulator of APP Expression for Alzheimer’s Therapy. “Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia in 5.4 million patients in the United States alone. There’s no effective disease-modulating therapies that are FDA-approved and we spend about $183 billion per year for healthcare costs related to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the result of chronic and vast accumulation of a toxic and hydrophobic β-amyloid peptide in the brain,” Sadowski said. His solution is ARN2966, a non-toxic orally ingestible and “blood-brain-barrier” penetrating compound that regulates the expression level of APP. ARN2966 lowers β-amyloid peptide production. “In tests, it has performed with significant results. It’s an alternative mechanism of action and because the structure of ARN2966 is so simple, it is a good platform for the lead optimization process,” Sadowski said.
Kidney stones were the topic of the next presentation, as Andrew Coopman took the stage to speak about this painful topic. “It’s incredible painful,” Coopman began. “Kidney stones are prevalent in up to 12 percent of Americans. That’s a 70 percent increase in the past 20 years, probably due to the change in diet and obesity rates. Treatment of kidney stones is expensive and if you’ve had one, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll get it again.” The Ravin Group—a group of two urologists and one nephrologist have formulated an “over-the-counter beverage” that is “highly effective at reducing kidney stone recurrences.” What the beverage does is chemically alter the composition of urine. “The beverage is more effective and better tasting than water. It reduces stone risk by altering urine chemistry to discourage kidney stones from forming,” Coopman said.
Dr. Isabelle Germano presented Engineered Stem Cell Therapy for the Treatment of Brain Tumors. “Brain tumors are increasing,” she said. “It’s very aggressive because of its infiltrative nature. And there is limited therapeutic efficacy. Even with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, diagnosed patients have an average of 14 months life expectancy.” Her solution is to provide patients with patient-specific stem cells. “What we want to do is find cell-based therapy to provide for the brain.” According to Germano, no group has ever used this particular technique or has written about it to date.
David Schaer presented The VRP-TRP2 Melanoma Vaccine. “Melanoma is a killer,” Schaer said. “It causes 75 percent of deaths in skin cancer. There is hope, though. It comes in the form of immunotherapy. It gives the diagnosed a chance of survival, but the problem is that it only affects 30 percent of the patients. The remaining 70 percent aren’t as lucky. We need a one-size-fits-all solution. Using alphavirus one can generate a lot of immunity.” The vaccine under proposal is targeted to melanoma antigens and it ultimately has less side effects than Ipillmimab, a recent FDA-approved immunotherapy for treating malignant melanoma. “Our product can provide long-term protection against melanoma trough concomitant activation of antibodies and T-cells,” Schaer said.
Derek Tan, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center presented Novel Antibiotics Targeting Bacterial Iron Uptake. He brought up the antibiotic crisis, which is basically viruses developing a resistance against the antibiotics designed to destroy them. “The pharmaceutical industry has abandoned antibiotic discovery,” Tan said. “Existing antibiotics are narrowly focused.” In response, Tan and his team developed Salicyl-AMS, “which acts via a unique mechanism of action.” Salicyl-AMS is a potent inhibitor of siderophore and Tan projects that it will be “effective against tuberculosis.”
From here, a panel took over to talk about the future of life sciences in New York City. The panel consisted of Kathyrn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City; Geoffrey Smith, Director for Center for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Graduate School, Mount Sinai; and Carl Weisman, Chairman and CEO at Accelerator Corp.
“What’s going on in the venture world today?” Wylde asked Geoffrey Smith.
“I always thought that venture capital wasn’t a big deal. It’s always hard to raise money. One of the things we have to worry about now is the financial risk. It’s gotten harder to move your technology forward,” Smith answered.
“You have an interesting model, combining venture and accelerator. Can you explain what you do?” Wylde asked Weisman.
“Given that there are fewer firms, particularly for emerging bio firms and in the reduction of current capital available, we had to build a model that removes risk, but be financially available. It’s trying to be capital efficient and bandwidth efficient. We did a lot of work looking for a second location and it’s here—New York City,” Weisman said.
Wylde asked Smith what he was trying to achieve with his position at Mount Sinai.
“I moved here to create a center to focus on student education to inspire young scientists. Another piece is to help Mount Sinai researchers develop new ideas, cultivate ideas and organize technology development. The final piece of the puzzle is researching economic innovation,” Smith said. He seemed to say that a lack of resources means no innovation and ultimately no results.
“What in your mind makes a good partnership?” Wylde directed her question towards Weisman.
“I’d say the key word there is partner. We’ve had numerous partnerships with academic institutions. The relationships ranged from fumbling to creative innovations. The standard sorts of academic and financial collaboration don’t work very well. We need some creativity in structuring the relationship. It’s really about figuring out how to get there. We provide scientists with the financial capabilities for them to develop experiments,” he said.
“For me, it’s being realistic. You have to be realistic to move into the business or financial world. You have to be realistic about the value you’re adding. Realism is very important,” Smith added.
“What is New York’s strength?” Wylde asked.
“I think if one takes a look at the two top bio tech hubs, it’s Boston and the Bay area. They are so because they had a great critical mass of top academic institutions. The next place in this country is New York City. For an accelerator, we wanted to find a place where materials weren’t provided organically. New York is underserved and we’re here to fill that role,” Weisman said.
“NYC is a huge financial center. There’s lots of money here. I think the pressure has gone down regarding distributions. But it would be helpful to have more startup labs or incubator-type of facilities around. It’s a good time to be in NYC, though,” Smith said.
The panel concluded their discussion to resume the presentations.
Ron Katz was the first to present after the break and he talked about the next generation of angiography. “Polychromatic angiography is a new proprietary retinal imaging technology. It uses four fluorophores, where each of the fluorophores posses a specific effective size and spectra,” he said. To determine mild blood-retinal barrier dysfunction, the flurophores—using smaller effective sizes—leak, and of course, depends on the severity of the damage, but the detected leaking flurophores indicate the grade of the dysfunction. “Grading the dysfunction will help ophthalmologists personalize the management of patients,” Katz said.
David Sans of PRECISE Medical Diagnostics talked about their platform that integrates analytics results derived from tissue-image morphometry. “It is an innovative tissue-based molecular diagnostics platform,” Sans said. The platform enables doctors to gain a “precise insight into each of their patient’s individual clinical data.” The platform will transform current molecular diagnostics and it will take it to an “entirely new level of sophistication.”
Doctors Pavol Cekan, Neil Renwick and Professor Thomas Tuschl of The Rockefeller University presented Effective RNA-Based Molecular Diagnostics Through Quantitative Multiplexed RNA Fluorescence in situ Hybridization. “The detection of coding and non-coding RNAs in tissue sections is important for expression analysis in molecular pathology,” Cekan said. “Our scientists have developed a strategy to irreversibly crosslink or immobilize different RNAs for ISH. Fixation substantially improves RNA retention in tissues. Our improved ISH method is a broadly-enabling advance to visualize miRNAs, non-coding RNAs and mRNAs for diagnostic and research purposes.”
Dr. Daniel Gareau presented Skin Cancer Screening by Novel Microscopy and Software Algorithms. He argued that novel microscopy and software algorithms find skin cancer faster and with less cost. Using technology like this will allow more effective and less painful procedures. Today, non-melanoma cases are dealt with examination of histopathology, but it is labor intensive and slow, which leads to insufficient sampling and inaccurate excision of margins. In regards to melanoma, “diagnosis of all malignant melanoma at the in situ stage would eliminate the Stage IV disease,” Gareau said. His solution is to use novel microscopy technology aided by software algorithms to detect cancerous growth on the skin.
Edward Quadros talked about serum test for folate receptor autoantibodies. “This is useful for guiding folate supplementation in pregnancy related disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders too,” Quardros said. “We have developed a blood test capable of measuring folate receptor alpha autoantibodies, and which is scalable for routine use in the assessment of CFDs [Cerebral Folate Deficiency Syndrome] in standard clinical serum testing platforms.”
William Reisacher developed the Local Allergy Mucoscal Test, where “mucoscal cells from a symptomatic area are collected using a minimally-invasive brush, processed using a novel assay.” The LAMB test allows for accurate stratification of asthma and allergy research patients based on their testing status.
Tony Chen’s technology consists of non-degradable hydrogels with different mechanical and structural characteristics. It replaces damaged orthopedic tissues. The implant will be used to replaced cartilage to enable function at a pre-injury level. The development has “distinct advantages over all current technologies. It has been designed to allow for easy manufacturing and ultimately, immediate pain relief, restoration of function and short rehabilitation times.”
Edgardo Molina presented Vista Wearable, a vibro-tactile device designed to help the visually impaired. “Our device is an arrangement of wearable, wireless actuators placed on different parts of the body. It is inexpensive and it is designed to be scalable, comfortable and modular. Our product allows for easy adaptation in many environments.
It is, however, not a replacement for vision. It’s a tool to help the impaired navigate their surrounding using their skin as the primary receptor.”
Binlin Wu presented Time Reversal Optical Tomography. “The traditional imaging methods used in clinics are well developed, but there are associated disadvantages like their inability to distinguish between benign and malignant tumors as well as the accumulation of radiation and cost are some of the many drawbacks.” Time Reversal Optical Tomography is one solution to the tradition imaging methods. It is using near infrared diffusion of light for optical imaging of targets. “This results in non-invasive detection,” Wu said.
And for the last presentation, Ted Rosenwasser presented the RASL Repair kit, or the Reduction and Association of the Scaphold and Lunate Implant and Instrumentation. “This procedure is the internationally recognized solution to the rupture of the scapholunate interosseus ligament. Left untreated, it leads to significant disability of the wrist. This procedure has demonstrated long-term outcomes across more than a decade of patient data,” Rosenwasser boasted.