Familiar names abound in Center for Biotech awards

Science class: Top biotech R&D efforts from across the region have earned funding through the SBU Center for Biotechnology's 2017-2018 Applied Research and Development awards program.

Several breakout research projects – and a few familiar faces from the cutting edge – scored funding this week through Stony Brook University’s annual biotechnology awards program.

The Center for Biotechnology at SBU, an Empire State Development Division of Science, Technology and Innovation Center for Advanced Technology, has announced the recipients of the 2017-18 Applied Research and Development awards. The awards, along with matching funds from the recipients and other stakeholders, are meant to bridge the gap between academia and early-stage technology discovery and to support later-stage commercial development in the bioscience industries.

Roughly $360,000 was awarded through the 2017-18 program to SBU-based researchers working with nine regional bioscience companies. The awards culminate a competitive application process judged by “five external reviewers” representing a cross-section of corporate entities, according to Diane Fabel, the Center for Biotechnology’s operations director.

“The center’s Applied Research and Development program speaks to the core of what our organization does,” Fabel said. “We collaborate with New York State companies to help them develop commercially promising technologies that will lead to strategic partnerships, investment, corporate revenues and job creation.”

Projects supported this year include a temporary pacemaker for use in intensive-care units, novel treatments for lymphoma and osteoporosis, a nanomedicine for chemo-resistant cancers and a new technology for delivering drugs to combat gastrointestinal diseases, among others.

While not enormous in scope, such R&D awards are crucial for companies like Farmingdale-base ALA Scientific Instruments, which is combining a roughly $40,000 Applied Research and Development award with a fresh Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue SBU-based development of the “fMRI Dynamic Phantom” – a technology that will calibrate MRI machines to allow doctors to create resting-state baseline readings of brain activity, a big step toward the creation of biomarkers that can help detect brain diseases.

Andrew Pomerantz: A no-brainer for ALA Scientific Instruments.

The Applied Research and Development award actually went to Stony Brook researcher Helmut Strey, director of SBU’s Micro and Nanotechnologies Lab, who’s working with ALA Scientific to develop the fMRI Dynamic Phantom. ALA Vice President Andrew Pomerantz said the award, the SBIR grant and a prior Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Science Foundation – between the three, roughly $2 million in total funding – are critical to the research effort, which aims to place a commercially viable unit in the field within the next two years.

“If you add up the total, it’s enormous for us,” Pomerantz told Innovate LI. “The type of development this needs, the hand-holding between us and Stony Brook –  it couldn’t be done without these grants.

“There is way too much technology and new things being developed,” he added. “We couldn’t afford it and Stony Brook couldn’t do it.”

Regional biotech enterprises also earning 2017-18 Applied Research and Development awards include Codagenix, which will apply its award to the in vivo testing of vaccine candidates; Symbiotic Health, which will further its targeted delivery of biologic agents to the colon; and TargaGenix, which is pursuing the nano-formulation of novel cancer stem cell “cytotoxic agents.”

Other winners include Ajes Lifesciences, to continue research into a synthetic osteogenic peptide for osteoporosis treatment; Avery Biomedical Devices, for the continued development of a temporary pacemaker for ICU settings; Biocogent, for work on “novel pleiotropic skin-brightening agents;” Polynova Cardiovascular, which is creating a polymeric valve for transcatheter aortic valve replacement; and Theragnostic Technologies, which is taking the fight to lymphoma by attempting to eradicate an oncogenic herpesvirus.

Over the past two years, the Applied Research and Development awards program has doled out approximately $537,000 to be paired with outside investments by the winning companies, with the “general guideline” being awards of about $40,000 per project, according to the Center for Biotechnology.

Over its 34-year history, the center – the lead administrative institution for the Long Island Bioscience Hub – has contributed to the development of more than a dozen FDA-approved products and “helped launch 18 companies,” according to a statement.

That legacy is well-served by the Applied Research and Development awards program, Fabel noted.

“Our academic institutions are incredible resources for bioscience companies to tap into when it comes to technology development,” the director said. “Promoting interactions between the two helps fuel the overall bioscience ecosystem in the region.”

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