Research News

UB startup POP BIO partners with global pharma companies

researcher John Lovell and Phd student Kevin Carter in the lab.

UB researcher Jonathan Lovell (right) and PhD student Kevin Carter are among the co-founders of Pop Biotechnologies. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published December 21, 2017

“Essentially, it can make existing vaccines’ responses more powerful and longer-lasting, and open the door to creating vaccines for diseases that so far have evaded a vaccination. ”
Jonathan Lovell, assistant professor
Department of Biomedical Engineering

UB spinoff POP Biotechnologies (POP BIO) is ending the year on a high note.

The Buffalo-based, biopharmaceutical startup recently inked research agreements with two international pharmaceutical companies, signed a manufacturing contract with a regional drug development firm and moved into new digs at the UB Technology Incubator at Baird Research Park.

The company has developed a vaccine adjuvant called SNAP, an abbreviation for Spontaneous Nanoliposome-Antigen Particleization. Adjuvants are immunological agents, often used to enhance the efficacy of vaccines and drug treatments.

The technology is the basis for the research with the international pharmaceutical companies

“Essentially, it can make existing vaccines’ responses more powerful and longer-lasting, and open the door to creating vaccines for diseases that so far have evaded a vaccination,” says UB researcher Jonathan Lovell, whose lab developed the technology that POP BIO is advancing.

Lovell is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“If successful, our collaboration with our international partners will produce vaccines for life-threatening diseases which currently have no vaccine,” says Jonathan Smyth, POP BIO’s chief administrative officer and a graduate of the UB School of Law. “Additionally, this work will validate our adjuvant technology in pre-clinical studies and open an avenue for clinical co-development deals.”

Out of respect for client confidentiality, POP BIO is not disclosing the names of the three companies it’s working with, nor the disease targets.

POP BIO also is working on commercializing a light-based chemotherapy treatment — also developed in Lovell’s lab — that kills cancer cells while causing only limited harm to the tissue around them.

The company won the 2015 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, which was created by the UB School of Management and UB’s economic development offices. It also attracted the interest of America Online co-founder Steve Case, who along with local investors awarded POP BIO $100,000 in 2015 during Case’s Rise of the Rest business plan contest.

“It’s challenging to start a new life sciences company. But with the support of local startup programs like Panasci, UB Incubators and Launch NY, companies like POP BIO are finding success in Buffalo,” Smyth says.

In addition to Lovell and Smyth, Kevin Carter, a PhD student in Lovell’s lab, is a co-founder of the company.