Biohub awards $900K in research funding

Diane Fabel heads the Bioscience Hub program.

Thirteen grants totaling $900,000 have been awarded by the Long Island Bioscience Hub in its first-ever funding round.

The hub – a National Institutes of Health-supported partnership between Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory designed to help commercialize technologies created at the member institutions – is funded by a $3 million NIH award and over $5 million in contributions from its members, the SUNY Research Foundation and Empire State Development.

All told, the LIBH plans to award $8.1 million in grants, starting with the 13 awards announced this week.

The first awardees were selected from 38 applications from researchers at the three member institutions. Hub staffers vetted the proposals and made choices, which were then reviewed by an external screening committee – featuring executives from Pfizer, GE, Novartis and Canon, among other tech and biotech firms – and reviewed again by the NIH.

Official word on the first awards came from SBU’s Center for Biotechnology, whose director of operations, Diane Fabel, is the de facto leader of the three-headed hub.

“When we went through the review process, those were the projects that rose to the top,” Fabel told Innovate LI. “These were the ones we thought were the best, according to our criteria and the secondary review processes.”

The hub grants focus on three “funding initiative” stages familiar to any biotech startup: feasibility, proof of concept and commercialization. The feasibility awards are designed to help innovators rapidly test the viability of new ideas in a “fail-fast-or-proceed” format, potentially adding value to intellectual property or even catapulting a property directly to market.

The proof-of-concept awards provide “milestone-driven support” for research, development and testing, according to the hub, while the commercialization awards are reserved for later-stage IP where additional investment will speed a technology to market. No commercialization awards were issued in the first round.

Eight first-round feasibility awards went to:

  • A first-in-class “viral budding inhibitor” targeting pathogenic infections
  • Small-molecule inhibitors, part of a therapeutic program for triple negative breast cancer
  • Novel therapeutics for colon cancer
  • A “fast hybrid approach” for analyzing the structure of protein complexes
  • A method of enhancing protein yields using mechanical signals, a potential boon for biotech production
  • Creation of a “DNA safe-deposit box,” a smart appliance for sharing and storing biological samples and genomic data
  • Development of biomarkers for childhood tuberculosis cases

Five first-round proof-of-concept awards went to:

  • An innovate drill-bit technology providing a new standard of care for implant-bed preparation
  • Orthovoltage X-ray minibeams, a brain-tumor therapy featuring tissue-sparing “incident beams”
  • A highly sensitive “avalanche selenium detector,” potentially useful to positron emission tomography applications
  • A novel anti-tuberculosis drug therapy
  • A novel glioblastoma pharmaceutical

Center for Biotechnology Director Clinton Rubin, a distinguished professor who also chairs SBU’s Biomedical Engineering Department, applauded the “robust and diverse portfolio of early-stage technologies” presented by the Round 1 awardees.

“We are hopeful that this investment by the federal and state government, as well as Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Lab, will foster and accelerate the translation of these technologies from the bench to the bedside,” Rubin said, adding the LIBH stipends could also “help attract further investment from the industrial and financial sectors.”

With the first round of funding complete, the Bioscience Hub still has over $7 million to dole out and is already looking ahead to Round 2. The hub issued a new request for proposals in late October, with second-round proposals due by Jan. 7 and further funding slated to be announced in March or April.

Included in those Round 2 proposals, according to Fabel, will be many of the 25 pitches that didn’t make the first-round cut.

“There are many projects that we’ve encouraged to resubmit,” the hub honcho said. “We will work with those researchers to refine their ideas and provide the commercial context that might have been missing in their first applications.”