Last week eleven life science and biotech startups pitched their business at the Destination Medical Center’s Investors + Innovators Forum to shed light on Rochester’s innovation culture. Participating startups included: Ambient Clinical Analytics, Apri Health, Forge Biotechnology, Geneticure, Gila Therapeutics, Imanis Life Sciences, Mill Creek Life Sciences, Rochester Medical Technologies, Smartimplant Systems, SpineThera, and Universal Prosthetics.
Here’s some insight on four of these Rochester startups.
Geneticure is developing technology to replace the trial and error associated with hypertension therapy by harnessing the power of genomics. This largely Rochester-based team is tackling one of the largest causes of preventable death facing today’s healthcare system, high blood pressure, which affects 80M U.S. citizens and results in 5M new diagnoses each year. The current method to control high blood pressure through drug treatment is fifty to sixty-five weeks long, where the patient’s response to various types and doses of hypertension drugs are evaluated. This is an expensive and inefficient process, with only half of all patients effectively mitigating their disease. To solve this problem, Geneticure developed a panel of genes and proprietary algorithms to guide hypertensive drug treatment by predicting how patients will respond to certain therapies. Patients are genotyped, or their DNA content is sequenced at precise regions of the genome, through a simple cheek swab. The patient’s DNA is run on the Geneticure panel to examine the individual’s gene sequence at specific regions involved in drug response and the information is used by the clinician to guide therapy. The first Geneticure product results in the use of fewer ineffective medications and improves patient adherence. The team completed a 100-person retrospective study for their product and is now recruiting eight hundred participants for a prospective randomized control trial. The company has recently taken investment from the California-based venture capital firm Wireframe Ventures. Geneticure has two other products in the pipeline.
Gila Therapeutics, Inc.
Gila Therapeutics is a clinical stage pharmaceutical company that is developing novel treatments for obesity. Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, costing the healthcare system $190B each year. Obesity leads to a variety of health concerns including diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Each year, 100M Americans attempt diets, but less than one percent of these people lose weight. There are currently five obesity drugs on the market, but these therapeutics only capture a small percentage of the $60B spent every year on weight loss products, diets, and surgery. To tackle this issue, Gila Therapeutics is developing novel treatments for obesity. Their current therapy involves topical application of the satiety hormone PYY to the tongue, where the peptide interacts with local receptors and induces a signaling cascade to make the body feel full. PYY is normally produced by cells in the small intestine upon food digestion. The hormone gets released into the blood and works its way into the saliva to interact with receptors on the tongue. For therapeutic applications, the hormone is delivered before eating to activate satiety centers, making the patient feel fuller sooner and eat less. Gila Therapeutics has raised $4M in Series A financing, which was led by a Boston firm. This August, the team completed a Phase I trial to examine the safety of their therapy. Currently, they are undergoing a Series B effort with the hopes to raise $5M in capital to fuel the next phase of drug development.
Imanis Life Sciences, LLC
Imanis Life Sciences is a research tools company headquartered in downtown Rochester. This business develops reporter gene technologies to enable live, high-resolution imaging in animal models. Their licensed proprietary technology includes Sodium Iodide Symporter (NIS) reporter imaging, allowing the visualization of specific cells and viruses in real time. Their products include reporter gene lentiviral vectors, reporter gene cell lines, and oncolytic viruses. Imanis Life Sciences was founded in 2012 as one of the first Mayo Clinic employee entrepreneurial startups. Currently, the business has eleven employees and has taken $1M of investment. They plan to grow organically through sale of their products and tools.
Mill Creek Life Sciences, LLC
Mill Creek Life Sciences is a research tools company located in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center. The company, founded in 2010, was one of the original Mayo Clinic spinouts. Mill Creek Life Sciences created the very first human platelet lysate for stem cell growth for use in research and clinical trials. Human platelet lysate is derived from expired platelets donated for transfusion and has abundant growth factors and cytokines- cellular molecules that function in immune response. The company also holds patented technology to mediate growth of targeted cell types. Customers for these core products include academic clinical labs, large biotech corporations, and contract manufacturing groups. Now, Mill Creek Life Sciences is expanding the business to treat glioblastoma, an extremely aggressive type of brain cancer. The company has completed a small Phase I clinical trial for glioblastoma treatment at Mayo Clinic.