Research News

Four UB life sciences spinoffs receive new NIH funding

Yifang Yang, principal investigator for Transira Therapeutics, holds a vial.

Yifang Yang is principal investigator for Transira Therapeutics’ new SBIR project. He is also a research scientist in UB's Department of Chemistry. Photo: Douglas Levere

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published December 9, 2021

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Four startups founded or co-founded by UB researchers have received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards from the National Institutes of Health to advance research on potential vaccines or therapies for a variety of diseases.

The companies are:

Joseph Balthasar.

Joseph Balthasar is co-founder of Abceutics. Photo: Douglas Levere

Abceutics Inc., founded by Joseph P. Balthasar, professor; Brandon Bordeau, research assistant professor; and doctoral student Toan Duc Nguyen, all from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; and by Larry C. Wienkers, who has past experience as vice president and global head of pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism at Amgen Inc. Abceutics has received $168,038 from the National Cancer Institute to develop the first in a series of new drugs, called payload-binding selectivity enhancers (PBSEs), that aim to improve the safety and efficacy of certain cancer drugs. Balthasar is David and Jane Chu Endowed Chair in Drug Discovery and Development, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Richard Bankert, University at Buffalo professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology, is co-founder of Immune Modulatory Therapies.

Richard Bankert is co-founder of Immune Modulatory Therapies.

Immune Modulatory Therapies LLC, founded by Richard Bankert, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology; Sathy Balu-Iyer, professor of pharmaceutical sciences; and Robert Chau, research scientist in pharmaceutical sciences. Immune Modulatory Therapies has received $293,178 from the National Cancer Institute to study the safety and efficacy of ExoBlock, a cancer-fighting drug that’s under development to help immune cells called T cells kill tumors.

Jonathan Lovell.

Jonathan Lovell is co-founder of POP Biotechnologies. Photo: Douglas Levere

POP Biotechnologies Inc., founded by Jonathan Lovell, SUNY Empire Innovation Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and School of Law alumnus Jonathan Smyth. POP Biotechnologies has received $599,982 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a liposome-based COVID-19 vaccine that could be freeze-dried and then stored at room temperature, eliminating logistical challenges that can impact vaccination campaigns, such as needs for ultra-cold storage.

Qing Lin.

Qing Lin is founder of Transira Therapeutics. Photo: Douglas Levere

Transira Therapeutics LLC, founded by Qing Lin, professor of chemistry. Transira Therapeutics has received $300,000 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to develop an oral pill for Type 2 diabetes, with the aim of helping patients control their blood sugar while facilitating weight loss.

All four startups have received technology transfer assistance and other support through UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships (BEP) team. Faculty founders of three — Abceutics, Immune Modulatory Therapies and Transira Therapeutics — received awards from the Buffalo Innovation Accelerator Fund administered by BEP.

The university provides a range of support to faculty entrepreneurs, including seed funding, help with patent and grant applications, opportunities to locate in incubators, and assistance in identifying experienced entrepreneurs and business teams who can help move innovations to market.

“UB researchers pioneer life-changing innovations every day,” says Christina Orsi, associate vice president for economic development. “By supporting them with guidance, funds and space, and partnering them with business experts to serve as company leaders, we can advance those innovations into the world to really change lives.”

More information about Abceutics Inc., Immune Modulatory Therapies LLC, POP Biotechnologies Inc. and Transira Therapeutics LLC, and their partnerships with UB can be found online.