NYC Scientists Score $250,000 Awards in Annual BioAccelerate Competition

5/25/11Follow @arleneweintraub

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to target the gene that he believes might work better. His lab is working on drugs that inhibit a Ras-promoting enzyme. Philips will use the BioAccelerate money to further develop his lead compound, and to develop a test that will help scientists study the behavior of Ras. Philips believes such research could reignite the pharmaceutical industry’s interest in Ras—which could lead to more funding for his research. “Drug companies want to target Ras, they just don’t know how,” he says.

Zaghloul Ahmed of City University of New York says the spotlight BioAccelerate shines on new inventions helps inventors as much as the money does—if not more. Ahmed is planning a human trial of his technology, which uses electro-stimulation to restore mobility in patients with paralysis. “I’m so happy about this prize, but the exposure means more to me than the money,” he says. “I hope a big company will identify us and decide to take our project further.”

In addition to providing money and exposure, the New York City Investment Fund assigns mentors to all the winners of BioAccelerate. The mentors, says Gotsch, “are all people who have had roles at bioscience companies.” Their job is to help the scientists transform their technologies into companies.

Those relationships benefit the mentors, too. “This program is great—it brings to the surface myriad opportunities we have in New York City,” says Milena Adamian, a BioAccelerate mentor and manager of the new angel-investing group Life Sciences Angel Network. Adamian is mentoring Sheila Nirenberg, who is developing a prosthetic retina at Weill Cornell Medical College. “It’s an amazing technology,” Adamian says. “I told her when we’re done with [BioAccelerate], we have to start a company around it.”

Here’s more information about the winners of the 2011 BioAccelerate prize:

Zaghloul Ahmed, assistant professor, City University of New York: Ahmed developed a method for electrically stimulating neurons in the brain and spinal cord to improve the mobility of patients with paralysis from spinal cord injuries, strokes, and related disorders.

Michelle Bradbury, assistant attending radiologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Bradbury’s technology uses a specially designed nanoparticle to produce real-time images of melanoma cells, so physicians can accurately pinpoint where the disease has spread.

Sheila Nirenberg, assistant professor, Weill Cornell Medical College: Nirenberg is developing a prosthetic retina that may restore normal vision in people suffering from blindness caused by retina-degenerating diseases.

Mark Philips, professor, New York University School of Medicine: Ras is a gene that has been implicated in more than 30% of all human cancers. Philips is developing anti-cancer drugs that inhibit a Ras-modifying enzyme.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, professor of biomedical engineering, Columbia University: Vunjak-Novakovic uses human adult stem cells to make living bone grafts, which can be used to correct bone malformations in the head and face.

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