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Swimming toward a biotech startup

first_img A step closer to tissue-engineered kidneys Researchers at Harvard are developing technologies that could change the way prescription drugs are delivered, potentially fighting cancer and prolonging lives. At a March 5 Guppy Tank event, hosted by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) and the shared laboratory space LabCentral in Cambridge, two of these innovations got their first airing before an expert panel of investors and entrepreneurs.Imagine that tiny amounts of fluid could be dispensed with greater accuracy than ever before, fine-tuning the potency of drug doses and making them easier for the body to absorb. Or that microscopic drug doses could be “backpacked” onto immune cells, better equipping them to target disease. The 13th session of Guppy Tank unveiled both concepts to the panel, which responded with feedback and ideas about how best to partner with industry to drive these innovations toward public benefit. The event drew a packed room for pitches, discussion, and networking.True to its name, the Guppy Tank is about nurturing young projects and providing innovative researchers with strategic guidance from a rotating panel of industry experts. “There aren’t too many venues in the gestation of a company where you can get a supportive environment with this kind of expertise,” said Christopher Petty, a director of business development at the OTD. “At this point, [these scientists have] been doing years of work on the research itself but are just starting to think about the formation of a company, so it’s great for them to get the feedback. Later, in the world of serious fundraising, there’s more chance you are in a ‘shark tank.’ That can be less constructive, since it can be more about raising money and why an idea might not work.”Daniele Foresti, a research associate in materials science at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, gave the first presentation, on “Drop-on-Demand Biologics.” He introduced a technology developed in the lab of Jennifer A. Lewis that applies the science of  3-D printing to the dispensing of pharmaceutical fluids. Lewis is Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Jianming Yu Professor of Arts and Sciences, and a core faculty memberat the Wyss Institute.Through the Lewis Lab’s innovations in acoustophoretic printing, researchers can use soundwaves to regulate the amount of fluid being dispensed from a nozzle, much like the flow seen in inkjet printing or water falling from a tap. In Foresti’s vision, the tiny droplets would contain precise doses of protein-based drugs. This is an important bit of fine-tuning, because the molecules of biotherapeutic drugs are very fragile and must typically be formulated only in low concentration.Using the soundwave technology developed by Foresti and the Lewis Lab, the therapeutic molecules can be encapsulated in protective microbeads and formulated as high-concentration liquids, making it possible for drugs that are now delivered intravenously to be injected. This could increase comfort for patients and lower the cost of treatment. “It’s a cutting-edge technology that’s well-suited to the industry,” Foresti told the panel of life-science venture capitalists.,The panel seemed to agree, and suggested ways for him to refine his presentation for investors.“I always love the concept of easier and cheaper,” said David Fallace, an adviser at the investment firm Polaris Partners. “I’d just love to see a little more data in your presentation: What exactly is the point where you feel people are going to get truly excited about this, and what is the money necessary to get to that point?” Deborah Palestrant, a partner at 5AM Ventures, liked the lab’s direct collaborations with pharma companies and suggested that Foresti also talk to antibody-generation companies.The second presentation, by Samir Mitragotri, introduced a therapeutic approach built on “backpacking” drugs onto macrophages (white blood cells found in the immune system). Mitragotri is Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Paulson School and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute. Macrophages, he said, are highly plastic and influenced by their environment, often being inactivated by the same tumors that they are attempting to fight. If a tumor-fighting drug could “hitch a ride” on the macrophage, it could then battle the disease more effectively. The cells would be taken from the body, attached to the disease-fighting “backpack,” and then intravenously re-infused.In the discussion after his presentation, Mitragotri was pressed by panelists on some specific points about the treatment. Palestrant asked how a backpacked cell would know where to go; Mitragotri responded that a cancer tumor, likely the dominant inflammation in the body, would naturally attract it. The two other panelists, Managing Director at Novartis Venture Fund Michal Silverberg and Lucio Iannone, director of venture investments at Bayer, both suggested alternative applications for backpack treatments, such as targeting inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis.The feedback will be valuable as his work goes on, Mitragotri said afterward. “At this point, we are delivering a platform, and it’s always great to hear about the possible applications,” he said. “We have the technology, and we’re learning about which problems it can solve. The most important thing was to get the idea out and to hear different perspectives on the scalability and manufacturing, how it gets used in a larger landscape of technology. That’s where this has the largest value.”Foresti said he also got some valuable input on how to market droplet technology in the future. “This was the most pitch-like atmosphere I have ever been in,” he said, “and it showed me how I might have to change my pitch and evaluate some of the market opportunity. What I found interesting was that they seemed to care more about the market, wanting to see more details about the business part. And that was comforting in a way, because there wasn’t much doubt about the technology.”For more information about the innovations described here and to discuss commercialization opportunities, please contact [email protected] Food for thought on new ideas 3-D bioprinted, vascularized proximal tubules mimic the human organ’s reabsorption functionscenter_img At Guppy Tank sessions, Harvard researchers get guidance from big fish Relatedlast_img read more

St Kitts-Nevis agrees landmark debt restructuring deal

first_img Share Tweet Sharing is caring! Share St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Denzil Douglas (fourth from left) and Financial Secretary Janet Harris (third from left) with White Oak Advisory advisersBASSETERRE, St Kitts (CUOPM) — A St Kitts and Nevis government delegation led by prime minister and minister of finance, Dr Denzil Douglas, has secured a landmark “stock-of-debt” restructuring deal from Paris Club creditors after an intense negotiation session held in Paris, France, on Thursday.The discussions with the Paris Club were focused on how best to support the government’s economic transformation efforts through the restructuring of the debts owed by St Kitts and Nevis to the United Kingdom and the United States. The approach to the Paris Club was part of the comprehensive debt restructuring program launched by the government in June 2011.After six rounds of complex negotiations, the government and the Paris Club agreed at the multilateral level to restructure over 20 years the entire stock of debt outstanding to the Paris Club, including the arrears. A grace period on principal repayments of seven years will also apply. Concessionary rates of interest will apply to the rescheduling.In addition, the Paris Club confirmed during the negotiations that further concessions from the Paris Club creditors at the bilateral level are likely. The government expects that these concessions could involve the outright cancellation of over 60 percent of the debt treated at the multilateral level on 24 May 2012, as well as other additional concessions.During the negotiations the Paris Club saluted the results of the government’s economic reform drive and general debt restructuring effort to date. The Club’s members, who include representatives from the world’s developed economies, acknowledged that the government’s determination to tackle the country’s problems in a decisive way will help ensure that St Kitts and Nevis is well placed to withstand the headwinds of an increasingly uncertain international environment.The Paris Club also indicated that it was the government’s commitment to a sound macroeconomic course, as well as the approach taken with the general debt restructuring, that persuaded the group to grant restructuring terms that are exceptional for a country in the upper-middle income category.Speaking after the signing of the agreed minutes, Douglas commented: “We understand that the negotiations were tougher and took a little longer than the Paris Club had expected. This may be the case, but it was important for us to have the opportunity to explain our situation properly, and to secure the right agreement for us.”The prime minister added, “Even before we take into account the additional concessions from our creditors that are expected to come at the bilateral level, the agreement signed in Paris yesterday has no precedent in the Caribbean, and is amongst the most concessional ever to have been granted by the Paris Club to an upper-middle income country anywhere in the world. We are delighted at this recognition of our efforts, and thank the Paris Club for its support.” The prime minister was accompanied during the negotiations by Janet Harris, Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, and by the financial advisors from White Oak Advisory LLP.The bilateral agreements that will implement the 24 May 2012 agreement, and that are expected to incorporate the additional concessions, are scheduled to be signed later this year. Caribbean News Nowcenter_img 56 Views   no discussions NewsRegional St Kitts-Nevis agrees landmark debt restructuring deal by: – May 26, 2012 Sharelast_img read more

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