MassBio reveals line-up for its biotech accelerator

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ismagilov
© GettyImages/ismagilov

Related tags accelerator CAR T cell therapy Rna Vaccines

The selected companies, the inaugural cohort for MassBioDrive, get to participate in an eight-week program focused on growing businesses and advancing breakthrough science.

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) has just revealed the five emerging biotech companies chosen to participate in the spring 2022 cohort of its accelerator program.

The initiative, called MassBioDrive, looks to harness the power of the organization’s global life sciences network to help new founders launch their startups more effectively and efficiently.

“The science and technologies that these companies are pioneering represent the future of the life sciences. From simplifying CAR-T production to developing new therapeutics for acute kidney injury patients, the MassBioDrive spring cohort has enormous potential to address pressing unmet medical needs,”​ said Joe Boncore, CEO of MassBio.

What’s in it for the startups?

Over the course of the eight-week program, the selected startups will participate in growth-focused business training taught by seasoned experts, and they will partner with a small, dedicated group of industry mentors.

The companies will also receive a stipend award from Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and access to and/or resources from MassBioDrive partners.

The startups were selected following a rigorous vetting and interview process, led by a review board of industry leaders, said MassBio.

The line-up

Artificial Axon Labs, Topsfield, Massachusetts

Artificial Axon Labs is developing a drug discovery platform aimed at neurodegenerative diseases. Its technology, developed by the company founders at MIT, combines biocompatible materials, 3D printing of axon mimics, and patient-derived human cells to generate remyelinating drugs for multiple sclerosis.

Anna Jagielska is its president, CEO, CSO and co-founder, while Kavin Kowsari is company vice president, CTO and co-founder

Atorvia Health Technologies, Ottawa, Canada

Atorvia’s purpose is to transform outcomes for patients with severe medical conditions. Their initial focus is acute kidney injury (AKI), a condition affecting millions worldwide yet one that still lacks effective treatment approaches. To address this, the startup is developing a kidney-targeted peptide that is designed to prevent regulated cell death and kidney failure.

Jane Lapon is the firm’s CEO, and David Allinson is its CFO and head of business development.

Modulari-T Biosciences, Montreal, Canada

Modulari-T is a preclinical stage immunotherapy startup developing a novel platform, the MARC, to reprogram immune cells for oncology and beyond. It says its MARC technology is twice as potent as CAR-T, while reducing side-effects ten-fold, which, the company added, will enable adoptive cell therapy to break-in to new indications in autoimmunity and regenerative medicine.

David Cotnoir-White is the company’s CEO and co-founder, and Étienne Gagnon is its CSO and also co-founder

PhenoTarget Biosciences, San Diego, California

PhenoTarget Biosciences, Inc. is a biotech startup focused on the discovery and development of therapies for unmet medical needs including oncology, fibrosis, cardiovascular diseases, and infectious diseases. It is modality agnostic: its pipeline and technology platforms span small molecules to functionalized peptides and next generation cell therapies.

Shoutian Zhu is its CEO and co-founder, Wenshe Liu is the company’s CSO and another co-founder, while James Schaeffer is CBO and a co-founder as well., Newton, Massachusetts is an early-stage synthetic biology company focused on the discovery, development, and future commercialization of precision therapeutics using its proprietary Linear DNA and Circular RNA technology platforms. The developer aims to deliver novel and effective therapeutics and vaccines enabling precise corrective and preventive treatments for patients worldwide.

Martin Williams is the CEO and founder of

VC investment in Massachusetts biopharma firms up 70%  

January saw MassBio release its 2021 Massachusetts Biopharma Funding Report​. The findings, said the organization, demonstrates continued growth and confidence in Massachusetts’ early-stage R&D cluster.

Following record-breaking numbers in 2020, 2021 saw an increase of 70% — US$13.66bn in total — in venture capital (VC) funding to Massachusetts-based biopharma companies, it reported. “This increase in VC funding mirrors national trends, and provides additional capital which will drive continued, significant growth of labs, biomanufacturing, and jobs across the state.”  

Some 36% of national VC biopharma investments flowed to Massachusetts biopharma companies in 2021, up from 29% in 2020, the report showed.

Statewide, more than 200 companies received over 250 rounds of investment. Furthering the industry’s growth regionally, over 50% of Massachusetts-based biopharma companies that went public via IPO and 42% that received VC funding in 2021 were located outside of Cambridge, according to the data.

The increase in VC funding was paired with a strong IPO market for emerging biotech companies.

Last year saw a hike in Massachusetts-based initial public offerings (IPO) over the previous year with 25 IPOs, up from 21 in 2020, and an average deal size of $154m. Notably, 28% of all US-based biopharma IPOs in 2021 were from Massachusetts-based companies, found the publication.

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