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Harvard University Launches New Round of Biomedical Accelerator Fund to Speed Proof-of-Concept and Development of Emerging Technologies- Reflects Expanded Commitment to Public Service Through Technology Development -
- First Project Supported by Fund is Licensed to Egenix, Inc. -
Cambridge, MA, February 8, 2008 - Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) today announced the launch of the second round of its successful Technology Development Accelerator Fund, a new initiative designed to propel emerging technologies originating from the University’s biomedical and life science research community into clinical development and, ultimately, the marketplace.
Inventions arising from one of the first group of research projects supported by the Accelerator during its initial year of operation have already been licensed to industry, thus providing early and compelling validation of the Fund’s core strategy to boost early-stage inventions to the “take-off” point where they become attractive candidates for commercial development.
Inventions from the laboratory of José Halperin, M.D. and Gerhard Wagner, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School were licensed to Egenix, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company based in Millbrook, New York. The licensed technologies comprise small molecule inhibitors of translation initiation of protein synthesis, which represent a novel approach to creating target-specific, non-cytotoxic anti-cancer therapy. Also licensed were translation initiation-specific biomarkers that may be used to assess tumor sensitivity to these therapies.
Harvard launched the Accelerator Fund last year with $6 Million in private donations, and seeks further donations to support additional research projects. The Accelerator Fund aims to bridge what is known as the “development gap”, an obstacle often encountered by scientists when promising early-stage inventions lack validation or “proof of concept” necessary to attract development partners from industry and the venture capital community.
The Accelerator is structured to provide Harvard scientists with the financial resources needed to traverse the development gap and generate the confirmatory data required to attract commercial partners. The ultimate objective of the Accelerator Fund is to serve the public interest by expediting the transfer and development of promising new inventions made by Harvard researchers from the lab to the marketplace.
“As one of the world's foremost research universities, Harvard has a special obligation to foster the development and translation of promising new technologies that could benefit the public and society as a whole,” remarked Steven E. Hyman, M.D., Provost, Harvard University. “The Accelerator Fund serves as a novel gateway for bringing Harvard-generated inventions to the marketplace rapidly, where they can provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.”
Six initial projects were funded by the Accelerator in the first round, spanning a myriad of disease areas, including HIV, cancer and diabetes, at a cumulative budget $1.3 million. The Accelerator Fund is now seeking proposals from Harvard faculty for its second round of funding, also at a total budget of $1.3 Million.
The Accelerator Fund is managed by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, in consultation with a dedicated Advisory Committee, appointed by the Provost, comprised of recognized thought leaders from the Harvard faculty, industry and the venture capital community. The Committee applies rigorous standards to help select the most consequential proposals for funding submitted by Harvard scientists. A portion of any revenues derived from licensing projects is returned to the Accelerator Fund to help sustain future research and innovation at Harvard.
Dr. Chris Mirabelli, a member of the Accelerator Advisory Committee, and Managing Director of HealthCare Ventures, stated "Some of the most important therapies and technologies in existence today originated from collaborations between the venture capital community, academia and the pharmaceutical industry. I'm confident that the Accelerator Fund will enable this tradition to continue in an even more effective manner. I am very pleased to play a role in helping to advance the next great breakthrough in biomedical technology that will have its roots at Harvard."
The Office of Technology Development also today announced the appointment of Curtis T. Keith, Ph.D. as Chief Scientific Officer for the Accelerator Fund. As part of his responsibilities, Dr. Keith will manage the life science research and development projects supported by the Accelerator Fund, including ensuring that the funded projects remain on course and meet their development milestones, as well as play an important role in their initial selection and prioritization. Dr. Keith joins the OTD from CombinatoRx, Inc., a pioneering company in the new field of synergistic combination pharmaceuticals, where he served as co-founder and Senior Vice President, Research. Dr. Keith received his Ph.D. in chemistry and chemical biology and an M.A. in chemistry from Harvard University and holds a B.Sc. in biochemistry from McGill University.
The members of the Accelerator Advisory Committee are:
- Julian Adams, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer at Infinity Pharmaceuticals and former Senior Vice President of Drug Discovery and Development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
- Joan S. Brugge, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, and previously the Scientific Director of ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Cambridge, MA.
- Geoff Duyk, M.D., Ph.D., Managing Director and Partner at Texas Pacific Group Ventures and former President of R&D at Exelixis and founding scientific staff member at Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
- Jean-Francois Formela, M.D., Partner at Atlas Venture, who has played a leadership role in building some of biotech's most successful companies in the past decade, including ArQule, Ciphergen Biosystems, Archemix, MorphoSys, Nuvelo, deCODE, Exelixis, and SGX Pharmaceuticals.
- Chris Mirabelli, Ph.D., Managing Director at Healthcare Ventures, and former chairman of the board and CEO of Leukosite, Inc. (acquired by Millennium Pharmaceuticals) and co-founder of Isis Pharmaceuticals.
- George M. Whitesides, Ph.D., Woodford L. and Ann A Flowers University Professor at Harvard University and co-founder of Genzyme, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies.
About Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development
The Harvard Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for all activities pertaining to the evaluation, patenting and licensing of new inventions and discoveries made at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. OTD also serves to further the development of Harvard technologies through the establishment of sponsored research collaborations with industry. OTD’s mission is to promote the public good by fostering innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard into useful products available and beneficial to society.