Regenerative Medicine Minnesota Biobusiness Award Winners Named
One of the best ways to get a handle on which biomedical research is on a fast track to commercialization is by looking at the winners of the annual Biobusiness Awards handed out by Regenerative Medicine Minnesota, a publicly-funded initiative set up in 2014 to help build on the state’s leadership position in the emerging industry.
Regenerative medicine is broadly defined as developing ways to replace, restore or regenerate damaged or malfunctioning cells and tissues. Most often it is through the use of stem cells, which can be transformed into many different types of cells, such as skin cells, brain cells and lung cells. Regenerative medicine thus is presenting completely new ways to treat and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and degenerative nerve, bone and joint conditions.
As scientific techniques are refined and regenerative medicine develops into a potentially major industry, Minnesota has a head start thanks to the expertise of the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. Representatives of those two institutions sit on the board of Regenerative Medicine Minnesota (RMM), which was established by the Minnesota Legislature three years ago.
The initiative was endowed with a $43.6 million allocation over a 10-year span with a mission to find and fund the best ideas in regenerative medicine. Its goals are to create “an educated public and a specialized workforce”; develop an “environment to attract and support biotechnology industry”; build the infrastructure to deliver new medical therapies; and ultimately, bring those discoveries and new treatments to Minnesotans throughout the state.
For health care industry analysts and investors, probably the most germane of the six categories of RMM grants are the Biobusiness Awards, which supply up to $100,000 for projects to “develop Minnesota businesses and technologies that deliver regenerative medicine products, devices, and services.” This can include such things as buying research equipment, product testing, hiring personnel, building capacity, etc.
In that regard, the award winners’ projects are in expansion mode, and so are more likely to be advancing toward commercialization.
The 2017 Biobusiness Award winners were announced this month. Here’s a rundown:
- Dan Carlson, vice president of development, Recombinetics Inc., for “development of inducible immunodeficient swine.” Recombinetics is using gene editing techniques to produce pigs that can provide models mimicking human cancer predisposition syndromes.
- Dan Dragomir-Daescu, associate professor of biomedical engineering, Mayo Clinic, for “a controllable and automated system for synthesizing GMP magnetic nanoparticles for regenerative medicine applications.” Superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION) are biodegradable, biocompatible, and can be used for targeted drug or gene delivery.
- James Dutton, University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute, for “critical infrastructure to support new stem cell-derived treatments for patients with age-related macular degeneration in Minnesota.” Induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential to produce nearly any cell or tissue the body, including retinal cells for treatment of age-related macular degeneration.
- Leah Hogdal, senior scientist, B-MoGen Biotechnologies, for “mitochondrial base editing for nerve regeneration.” B-MoGen, which has an exclusive license to Mayo Clinic technology allowing precise introduction of deletions into the mitochondrial genome of living cells, is working on ways to help nerves damaged from strokes and other injuries to repair themselves.
- Yasuhiro Ikeda, DVM, Mayo Clinic, for “Mayo CRM-original iPSC-derived islet product in a retrievable, encapsulation device.” Ikeda is developing novel gene and stem cell therapy technologies for diabetes, hypertension and hypertensive heart disease, which could lead to new treatments for patients whose therapeutic options are limited.
- Saad J. Kenderian MD, assistant professor of medicine and oncology, Mayo Clinic, for “development of a chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy platform at the Mayo Clinic.” Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy has recently emerged as a potent and potentially curative form of immunotherapy in hematological malignancies. Kenderian and his team are working on novel engineered T-cell therapies for the treatment of cancer.
- Walter Low, PhD, University of Minnesota Department of Neurosurgery, for “production of dopamine neurons – a cellular product for treating Parkinson’s.” This research is focusing on knocking out dopamine-secreting neurons in pigs and adding stem cells to grow human neurons that secrete dopamine. The goal is to transplant the neurons into Parkinson’s disease sufferers, a disorder where the patient loses dopamine-secreting neurons.
- John Schorgl, CEO, Peytant Solutions Inc., for “AmnioStent — Combining nitinol scaffold with amnion tissue to create a novel airway stent technology for tracheobronchial applications.” St. Paul-based Peytant is developing a biologic amniostent platform offering regenerative solutions for patency, barriers and a rapid integration in the treatment of all luminal diseases.
- James R. Thompson, PhD, MNPHARM SBC, for “molecular farming to reduce cost of recombinant proteins important to regenerative medicine.” Maplewood-based MNPHARM, one of Minnesota’s first public benefit corporations, touts “molecular farming,” in which indoor-grown transgenic plants are used to produce proteins that can be harvested for use in anti-cancer vaccines.