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First Brigham Ignite Awards Announced

7 minute read
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Brigham Ignite, Brigham and Women’s Hospital early-stage innovation acceleration program that advances discoveries with clinical and commercial potential, recently announced the first six recipients of its Brigham Ignite Awards. Along with supportive funding, the awards provide recipients with guidance on licensing, product development, intellectual property, and commercialization so that principal investigators are able to take the first steps onto the translational path.

Mass General Brigham Innovation is partnering with Brigham Ignite to further the development pipeline of treatment options, medical devices, and technology that will improve the lives and outcomes of patients.

It has been exciting to launch Brigham Ignite, and in just a short time, we have received more than 30 proposals with applications in therapeutics, diagnostics, and digital health. Brigham Ignite can now provide critical financial support and guidance to accelerate these ideas into practice.

Allison Moriarty, MPH
Brigham Senior Vice President
Research Planning & Operation and Innovation

Recipients receive one of two levels of funding:

  1. Seed Grants provide recipients with support from a program manager to develop a plan for early-stage translational research for up to one year, with a maximum of $50,000
  2. Development Grants support awardees with a program manager and industry experience to identify, prioritize, and refine objectives and project plans with the goal leading to a successful exit

“Thanks to the foresight of Brigham’s leadership support for Brigham Ignite, we have been able to build a team focused on a wider group of Brigham-based innovators that are now developing compelling translational proposals for funding,” said Mass General Brigham’s Erin McKenna, MBA, operating partner for Amplify and program director for Brigham Ignite. “We are able to increase the number of shots on goals and, hopefully, the number of potential products intended to improve patient care.”

Projects, researchers, and grants

NEDD9 monoclonal antibody therapeutic for pulmonary vascular thromboembolic

Bradley Maron, MD (Seed)

Pulmonary arterial thrombosis is a major event defining chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), and treatment is currently limited to non-specific anticoagulants. This project will advance a therapy to block clot formation in lung blood vessels. In doing so, the proposed medication, an anti-NEDD9 mAb, will offer a truly innovative option to prevent the development of heart and lung diseases that cause severe illness and shorten lifespan.

The development of novel Serpin B9 Inhibitor for the treatment of cold tumors

Reza Abdi, MD (Seed)

With the emergence of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), immunotherapy has gained significant momentum in treating intractable cancers. However, resistance to ICIs and other barriers to effective treatment of immunologically inert cancers remain active topics of research in the field of onco-immunology. The primary unmet need to be addressed by the team’s technology is the treatment of “cold” tumors through modulation of the tumor microenvironment (TME) via developing novel strategies to inhibit the function of Serpin B9, which is the natural intracellular inhibitor of Granzyme B (GrB), a key instigator of apoptosis in target cells, including cancer cells.

Development of novel proteasome inhibitors

John Hanna, MD, PhD (Seed)

Multiple myeloma affects a white blood cell, plasma cells. The five-year survival rate for patients is around 54%. Approved proteasome agents are non-specific for treatment, which leads to a variety of side effects in several systems. Better agents for this disease are imperative. The class of compounds, proteasome inhibitors, are essential in multiple myeloma therapy, inhibiting the cell’s ability to process proteins. However, the currently prescribed proteasome inhibitors affect healthy tissue and cancer tissue. Dr. Hanna’s team is working to identify the next-generation proteasome inhibitors, addressing the shortcomings of current therapy.

Sigma receptor 1 antagonists as novel therapeutics agents for neurodegeneration

Fran Quintana, PhD (Development)

There is an unmet need for therapies to arrest neurodegeneration. This team established that Sigma receptor 1 (SigmaR1), signaling promotes neurodegeneration. A SigmaR1 antagonist arrests neurodegeneration in preclinical models, but its potency and brain exposure need to be increased to maximize its therapeutic effects. The proposed product is a potent brain-penetrant SigmaR1 antagonist.

Glycopatch as a pleural sealant

Steven Mentzer, MD (Development)

Pleural injury and associated “air leak” is the most common complication for patients following pulmonary surgery. Prolonged air leaks after pulmonary resection are the primary reason for increased hospital length of stay (LOS). Air leaks have been shown to result in the extension of LOS by 5 to 13 days—more than doubling the cost of hospitalizations. The effectiveness of conventional treatments, including staples, sutures and rare FDA-approved sealants, are limited by the dynamic movements of the lung. The proposed product, called Glycopatch, is a plant-derived structural biopolymer film, specifically adapted for adhesive strength and extensibility. Glycopatch is uniquely designed and formulated for sealing pleural air leaks.

Polymeric microneedle patch for the management of alopecia areata

Natalie Artzi, PhD, and Jamil Azzi, MD (Development)

The skin is the biggest and most immunogenic organ in the body that can be accessed to treat and diagnose a range of diseases. The Artzi lab developed a polymer-based microneedle (MN) patch to release therapeutics transdermally and to sample biomarkers in skin interstitial fluid (soluble factors and immune cells). Together with the Azzi lab that specializes in auto and allo-immunity, including autoimmune skin diseases, the team has validated the utility of the patch in preventing skin allograft rejection by the delivery of factors that can attract and locally expand T-regulatory cells (Tregs) at the allograft site. The team is now leveraging their technology and know-how to treat other autoimmune skin diseases, such as alopecia areata, by promoting local immune regulation.

About Mass General Brigham

Mass General Brigham is the nation’s largest academic research enterprise. More than 150 life science and biotechnology companies have been established in Massachusetts as a result of the more than $2 billion in government funded and privately sponsored research that Mass General Brigham attracts every year. The groundbreaking research performed at Mass General Brigham is integral to developing and commercializing life-changing therapies which sustains Massachusetts’ competitive advantage in the innovation economy. For more information, please visit