UB Support Keeps Cancer-Fighting Company Growing in Western New York

For-Robin Founding President and UB Professor Kate Rittenhouse-Olson launched her company in 2012 using university technology. She says that experience and the ongoing support network - which includes UB STOR, UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), and faculty and students from the university’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences – will keep her company rooted in Buffalo.

Named for Rittenhouse-Olson’s sister who died of breast cancer at age 31, For-Robin Inc. has developed a promising antibody that stops breast cancer tumors from metastasizing to other parts of the body. Grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), UB Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund and UB Center for Advanced Technology have kept the company’s research on track.

Rittenhouse-Olson, PhD ’84 says her most recent government grant “means we’ll be one step closer to bringing this potential therapy to patients,” and that it will allow the company to “begin testing the therapeutic possibilities of our humanized antibodies in animal cancer models.” Although the primary target is breast cancer, the antibody also has shown promise in fighting colon, prostate and bladder carcinomas.

The company is one example of a successful start-up firm that is building UB’s scientific research. As Congressman Brian Higgins noted when announcing the NCI’s Small Business Technology Transfer program grant, “Companies like For-Robin are an important part of Western New York’s growing life sciences economy and this award demonstrates how innovations in our region are attracting the attention of the nation’s top funding agencies.”

In addition to research and seed grants, For-Robin has received ongoing guidance and support from the university, including help from an entrepreneur-in-residence and two innovation interns provided by UB STOR. Rittenhouse-Olson participated in the entrepreneurial boot camp, Pre-Seed Workshop, sponsored by the CBLS. The company also is a UB-affiliated participant in START-UP NY, an economic development program created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that allows universities to identify spaces and facilities where new and expanding businesses can operate for 10 years without paying state, business, corporate, income, sales or property taxes or franchise fees. For-Robin is relocating to South Campus.