Boston’s New Generation of University Spinoffs: The List
Below are some of the Boston area’s newest university spinoffs—including companies incorporated or formed since January 2006—and the schools from which they spun. For more on how we generated the list and determined the founding date for each (who’d have thought it could be so tricky?), see here.
Ascent was launched by former Epix Pharmaceuticals CEO Mike Webb to commercialize work from Tufts-New England Medical Center. The firm is focusing on developing treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases. In an article last year, Webb told the Boston Business Journal that Ascent would likely partner with an Indian firm for chemical development and preclinical testing.
BA Logix (short for Boolean Accelerator Logic Systems) was launched by pre-seed investment firm Allied Minds to commercialize technology from the lab of Karen Panetta, an associate professor in Tufts’ Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and a BA Logix co-founder. In a press release, Panetta says that the company’s image-processing and compression technologies “can support a broad set of end users and optimize their wireless, security, video and signal processing needs.” Allied Minds’ other portfolio companies—all launched with university partners—are all in the biomedical sector.
(Boston University, 2006)
BosteQ’s founders, Boston University associate professor Lars Oddsson and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Conrad Wall, are developing wearable devices—tricked-out belts and socks, essentially—to help elderly people improve their balance and avoid falling. Mass High Tech has more details on the technology and the challenges BosteQ will face in getting the technology to market.
(Harvard and MIT, 2006)
Founded by MIT’s Robert Langer and Harvard Medical School’s Omid Farokhzad, BIND (for BioIntegrated NanoDelivery) is developing treatments for cancer, inflammatory disorders, and cardiovascular disease based on nanoparticles targeted to specific cell types or tissues. Polaris Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures are both backing the firm.
(Boston University, 2006)
ExProDx was founded by BU School of Medicine professors Avrum Spira and Jerome Brody to develop DNA-based diagnostic tests for lung cancer risk determination and diagnosis. In July, the firm won a $175,000 Launch Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development. According to a BU announcement, the firm is using the cash “to prepare for an upcoming clinical trial, legal and regulatory consultants, personnel, and working capital,” so evidently these guys know how to stretch a dollar.
(UMass Lowell, 2006)
This nanotech/biopharmaceutical firm was founded around technology invented by UMass Lowell professors Stephen McCarthy and Robert Nicolosi. The firm, which is targeting a range of pharmaceutical and consumer-product applications for its technology, raised $7.5 million in a first-round of financing this January. New York’s Ascent Biomedical Ventures is an investor.
GMZ has licensed four MIT inventions, each centered on thermoelectric materials and nanomaterials—which can convert heat to electricity and vice versa. The company is quite stealthy, but in state filings the president, treasurer, secretary, and director are all listed as Michael Clary at the Sand Hill Road (Menlo Park, CA) address of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
MIT Media Lab professor Hugh Herr, himself a double amputee, co-founded iWalk to commercialize PowerFoot One, a robotic prosthetic ankle. The device, which allows users to have a more normal gait by adjusting the ankle’s positioning, stiffness, and power on the fly, is slated to hit the market next summer.
Lakewood develops treatments for infectious disease. Its lead candidate is a human monoclonal antibody-based treatment for food poisoning caused by certain e. coli strains. The technology was originally developed by Saul Tzipori, director of infectious diseases at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts.
(Boston University, 2006)
This early stage drug-discovery company was co-founded by Kenneth Walsh, a PhD biochemist and professor in the Boston University School of Medicine. A licensing deal is still in progress, according to N. Stephen Ober, director of innovation and entrepreneurship in BU’s Office of Technology Development, but the company plans to target obesity and metabolic disease.
(UMass Medical School, 2006)
RXi was formed as a subsidiary of biopharmaceutical firm CytRx to focus purely on RNAi-based therapeutics for a host of ailments, starting with neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. UMass’s claim on the company is that three of the firms co-owners—including Craig Mello, who shared a 2006 Nobel prize for his role in the discovery of RNAi—are professors at the UMass Medical School. What’s more, RXi has licensed a suite of patents from the school (the firm has a three-year deal granting it options to all unrestricted therapeutic RNAi technology developed there) as well as from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
(Boston University, 2007)
Funded by General Catalyst Partners and Khosla Ventures, Sand 9 develops radio frequency components for wireless devices. The company was founded “to deliver integrated circuit economics to the front-end-module of wireless transceivers,” according to a job ad for the firm (in case anybody’s looking).
(UMass Amherst, 2006)
Biofuel firm SunEthanol’s founder and chief scientist is UMass Amherst microbiology professor Susan B. Leschine. Leschine and a colleague discovered a cellulose-degrading microorganism in soil near the Quabbin Reservoir; now dubbed “the Q microbe,” the bug forms the basis of SunEthanol’s technology for converting corn stover, wood chips, switch grass, and other plant material into ethanol. Investors include VeraSun Energy, Battery Ventures, Long River Ventures, and AST Capital; UMass has an equity stake as well.
Built around an exclusive license to technology developed in the lab of Andrew Myers, chair of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Tetraphase is developing new tetracycline antibiotics targeted at drug-resistant bacteria. Last year the company raised $25 million in Series A financing from Mediphase Venture Partners, Fidelity Biosciences, Skyline Ventures, Flagship Ventures, and CMEA Ventures.
In 1998, Tufts chemistry professor David Walt co-founded San Diego-based Illumina, which staked an early claim in the SNP genotyping field. Now he’s helping to put together a local startup, Quanterix, with aims to build single-molecule and single-cell analysis systems for drug discovery and diagnostics. Arch Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and Flagship Ventures are all investors.