Success Stories

The MTTC has featured hundreds of entrepreneurs in its Conferences and Platforms and has provided seed funding to dozens of others. All have received some level of coaching and mentoring.  Many attribute their subsequent success at least partly to the support of the MTTC. You can read testimonials from our participants or browse their executive summaries in our Virtual Incubator website, but here we list summaries of some of our most prominent successes.

MTTC is recognized as a high-capacity engine that works to foster the success of tech researchers and entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth. Through MTTC’s multitude of activities, much benefit has been realized and distributed among the state’s tech sector and community. Some examples of MTTC’s success stories follow.

“By providing a forum for learning, coordination and sharing between both academic institutions and their industry partners, MTTC is critical to the success of technology transfer efforts in Massachusetts.”

-Frederick Reinhart, Director, Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)

WPI has had the good fortune of competing and winning grants and competitions in the past 5 years giving our school exposure that it otherwise would not have received. Of particular help has been the T3 program (tiny tech transfer offices) where MTTC convenes many of the small offices to share best practices or to hear presentations from companies that we as individual institutions, may not have had the opportunity to interact.”

-Todd Keiller, Director, Intellectual Property & Innovation, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Some MTTC Life Sciences Success Stories by Abigail Barrow, MTTC  – presentation at the Early-Stage Life Sciences Technology Conference 2014

More Success Stories:

(click to see details)

Developing Life Saving Drugs and Technologies
Revolutionary Adhesives Inspired from the Jungle
Advancing the Treatment of Depression
A Head-On Approach to Concussions
Transferring Organs, Knowledge, and Technology
Petrel Biosensors
Lumos Catheter Systems
ASSISTment System
Connective Orthopaedics
Solasta
Trophos Energy
Atanse
Promethean Power Systems
Hepregen
Novavax

Developing Life Saving Drugs and Technologies:

Massachusetts is home to the most innovative and cutting-edge biotechnology and pharmaceutical research in the world. Despite this distinction, transitioning work from the laboratory to prescribed therapies remains a complex process full of hurdles. Without directed commercialization assistance, what could have been effective new medicines are often left stranded in the lab. MTTC is doing its part to ensure that the life-saving technologies developed by those working in medical research receive the investment, attention, and support they need to bring their products to market and reach those who stand to benefit from improved health.

Dr. Chris Gemmiti and his colleagues were first introduced to MTTC when they participated in the Early-Stage Life Science Conference held in Boston in early 2016. Chris and other team members at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering were in the early stages in the development of a drug designed to concatenate drugs to a specified target for increased efficacy. Following the Boston conference, Chris was invited to present the emerging technology at an MTTC Platform Meeting to demonstrate his product. For the platform meeting, the MTTC convened a panel of more than 10 experts to listen to Dr. Gemmiti’s explanations of how his technology works and its potential benefits. The panel, in turn, provided Dr. Gemmiti and his colleagues with feedback on his presentation and shared their own experiences in commercializing research. Through this process, Dr. Gemmiti and his team gained valuable insights on how to better refine their pitches and focus their efforts as they introduced and demonstrated their product to potential users and investors. Through the efforts of MTTC, there were considerable time savings and many opportunities for rapid feedback – both of which are critical necessities in the pharmaceutical industry. In Chris’s own words, “What the MTTC team did on our behalf would have taken us months, and would not have been executed nearly as well…”. Since the MTTC Platform Meeting, the Wyss team’s drug technology has been licensed to Echo Therapeutics and has secured significant sponsored research funding.

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Revolutionary Adhesives Inspired from the Jungle:

Bringing new technologies to market is a challenging, time-consuming, and labor-intensive process. Dr. Alfred Crosby of the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at UMass Amherst recalled that following a positive response to his lab’s development of a gecko-inspired adhesive platform technology, “our lab was launched into a media storm, which led to hundreds of inquiries from individuals and companies all over the world that wanted to use our technology in their products. This early attention made clear that a market existed for the technology, but it was less obvious how to best manage this transfer process and how to gain the most value”.

Dr. Crosby and his team reached out to Abi Barrow and the MTTC staff to better understand the details of what was being asked of them by potential users of their research, how to evaluate their options for further development of the product, and how to make informed decisions about partnering and leveraging their breakthrough in adhesive technologies. As a first, step, MTTC organized a platform meeting for Dr. Crosby to participate in. Although a tenured Associate Professor at UMass Amherst with many years of speaking and presentation experience, Dr. Crosby recalled that at that time, he “did not appreciate the different considerations that must be made when presenting a technology, based in fundamental science, to a panel of venture capitalists, lawyers, corporate executives, licensing officers, and entrepreneurs”. Through working with MTTC and participating in the panel, Dr. Crosby learned what he and his team needed to do in order to be successful entrepreneurs, technology developers, and industry stakeholders. The panel itself played a crucial role by acclimating Dr. Crosby to a presentation format and the demands of an audience that he was not accustomed to in academia. Participating in the panel exposed Dr. Crosby to a host of considerations related to the production and development of his invention, as well as potential opportunities that he had not previously considered. Dr. Crosby’s partnership with MTTC increased his confidence as he moved forward in commercializing his breakthrough in adhesive technologies and he and his future business partner decided to move forward with product development following the panel meeting.

Following the MTTC panel, Dr. Crosby moved forward with founding Felsuma, LLC, in April 2013, which licensed “Geckskin”, the branded name of the adhesive technology, from UMass later the same year. Felsuma is now approaching its fourth year and is focusing on a suite of Geckskin technology products for “business-to-business” and “business-to-consumer” channels. As of Spring 2017, Felsuma is gearing up to launch its first commercial adhesive for mainstream consumers.

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Advancing the Treatment of Depression:

Finding the time and resources to demonstrate the applicability and prove the usability of emerging technologies can be challenging for investigators. Following initial development of a technology, the tech transfer process requires researchers to clearly demonstrate the potential applications of a new technology. The demonstration stage of the innovation process can be a death-knell for many researchers, as proof-of-concept funds are very difficult to secure given that the risk of technological failure is often high or unknown. MTTC recognizes that this stage can make or break many developers and innovators, and therefore engages in and promotes activities surrounding proof-of-concept funding.

In addition to convening panels of industry experts to help researchers develop proof-of-concept blueprints, MTTC administers several grant programs, including the Catalyst Awards, Acorn Innovation Awards, and Innovation and Commercialization Seed Fund. These fiscal resources are designed to usher people through the proof of concept stage of tech transfer. The availability of these grant funds has led to the maturity and transfer of many technologies from inside Massachusetts academic institutions to the commercial market.

A technology that has benefitted from MTTC’s proof of concept assistance is a rapid-acting neuro-modulation technology currently being developed at McLean Hospital for the treatment of clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. Globally, more than 350 million people are reportedly affected by depression, and over 270 million prescriptions for antidepressant medication are written each year. However, the effectiveness of antidepressants in the treatment of depression varies greatly. In 2005 Dr. Michael Rohan, an investigator at McLean Hospital, received MTTC funding to conduct a proof-of-concept study for the further development of Low Field Magnetic Simulation (LFMS), a novel medical technology that uses low-strength magnetic fields for the treatment of depression and other psychiatric disorders. According to David Glass, formerly chief technology transfer officer for McLean Hospital, the proof-of-concept funding provided by MTTC and the research it enabled were of great value in helping create a body of work that allowed McLean to license its invention to a Boston-based start-up company, Tal Medical, which is developing the LFMS technology for clinical use.

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A Head-On Approach to Concussions:

Heightened concerns around the short and long-term effects of concussions in recent years have also generated increased interest on the use and composition of protective athletic gear and padding.

The composition of the materials used in protective gear like helmets can affect the degree to which injuries are prevented or limited. In October 2015, MTTC provided proof-of-concept funding to a team from the UMass Dartmouth Bioengineering Department to continue the development of a novel impact resistant material, Fibrous Energy Absorbing Material (FEAM). FEAM has numerous benefits compared to traditional foam padding, including better adaptability to both individual and sport-specific needs, enhanced breathability, and most importantly, improved shock absorption. In 2015, the FEAM technology was licensed to Corsair Innovations, a company created to propel UMass Dartmouth technology innovations from ideas to reality, which is actively exploring the application and use of FEAM materials in helmets and other sports equipment.

Since the technology was licensed, MTTC has continued to be an active supporter of its development. MTTC has provided targeted coaching to Corsair, including helping them build and develop their investor and business pitches. In 2016, the NFL Head Health Challenge, a partnership between the NFL, GE, Under Armour, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded Corsair Innovations a $250,000 Phase I grant to support the development of high-impact absorption and dissipation technologies.

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Transferring Organs, Knowledge, and Technology:

The tech transfer process is not over once new companies have been formed or technologies have been licensed. Researchers and technology administrators must work constantly to refine and update their external relationships and communications efforts to stay on top of and adapt to changing industry priorities and market environments. As CEOs and CTOs (chief technology officers) of new tech and biotech startups juggling several roles simultaneously, the development of clear communications strategies can fall through the cracks. MTTC makes sure that companies are strategic with outreach efforts and are prepared to respond to opportunities as they arise.

Paragonix Technologies is Braintree-based medical equipment company that develops storage canisters for the preservation and transportation of human organs. Back in the early stages of the company’s development, founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Anderson was introduced to MTTC’s Abi Barrow. Almost immediately, Abi showed immense interest in Paragonix’s innovation and potential and offered to help refine Lisa’s investor deck. Lisa recalls that “Abi’s next step was to organize an MTTC Platform Meeting on a stormy afternoon in December 2010. Abi and Michele Bernier managed to fill an entire room with industry experts, ranging from investors and clinicians to regulatory, product development, legal and corporate advisors. The result of this platform meeting was transformative: not only did I get highly productive feedback from a group of experts and investors, I was suddenly ‘on the map’ in Boston’s start-up community which was critical for me as a first-time entrepreneur and founder.” MTTC has instrumental in introducing Lisa and her team to Mass Medical Angels, who later funded further development of Paragonix technologies. Paragonix has seen significant success in the past few years, and in 2016 the company announced product supply and distribution agreements with no less than four major medical suppliers across the United States.

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Petrel Biosensors

Scott Gallager, received $40,000 from MTTC in the spring of 2007. He used the fund to validate the “swimming behavior spectrometer (SBS)” which is a rapid, broad-spectrum early warning system for the detection of toxins in water. The project supported the collaboration with RTDC (Regional Technology Development Corporation) which has proceeded with the formulation of a new start-up company called Petrel Biosensors located in Woods Hole. Petrel will develop the next generation SBS using embedded processing and microfluidics to produce an instrument that is affordable and available for global sales.

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Lumos Catheter Systems

Brookline-based Lumos Catheter Systems, Inc. is developing a new device relying on fiber-optic technology to illuminate catheters which will help doctors make better placements in their patients. Farhad Imam, M.D., invented this technology while working with infants at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. He won an MTTC Investigation Award in the spring of 2007. His company is presently looking for seed investment to complete preliminary studies for 510(k) marketing and sales approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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ASSISTment System

Neil Heffernan from WPI won $40,000 in 2006 from MTTC to test and improve his ASSISTment system. The ASSISTment system is a web-based intelligent tutoring system that assesses student’s knowledge base while assisting them in their learning goals. It provides teachers, and parents, immediate, day-to-day feedback on students’ progress, making it easier to offer individualized instruction to help students master concepts they may be struggling with. To date, development of the system has been supported by more than $9M in funding from the NSF, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies. Heffernan has won several awards for his work and has applied for four new patients.

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Connective Orthopaedics

Connective Orthopaedics is a Woburn based company specializing in soft tissue repair in sports medicine applications, with the ultimate goal of healing the torn, native ACL. One of the founders, Dr. Martha Murray, from Children’s Hospital Boston, won an MTTC Investigation Award and used the funds to develop a working prototype. After further progress made with CIMIT and NIH funding, $4M was raised from Norwich Ventures. The potential of the technology to improve clinical outcomes for soft tissue injuries has been demonstrated and reported in both the scientific and clinical communities over the last decade.

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Solasta

Solasta Corporation, which is developing thin film photovoltaics based on coaxial nanotube technology, won a $25,000 grant from the MTTC in 2006, which they used to demonstrate the light-conducting capabilities of their novel materials. Co-founder Michael Naughton of Boston College, also participated in other MTTC programs to support the creation of new start-up companies. In part as a result of this combination of innovative technology, expert coaching and raised profile, Solasta has been the recipient of several million in Series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers as well as significant DOE/NREL grants for product development.

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Trophos Energy

Trophos Energy, a Somerville company, works with industry partners, research and education institutes, and government agencies to explore and develop projects and applications where long-term, maintenance-free power sources are of value. Co-founder, Peter Girguis from the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, won an MTTC award in 2007. He used these funds to develop a beta version of a wireless mesh sensor power supply in a terrestrial environment. A microbial fuel cell deployment in the Boston Harbor has gained interest from a major marine telecommunications company. Based on positive results, Girguis also hopes to gain three major grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

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Atanse

Atanse was founded by Dr. Miles Cunningham, a researcher at McLean Hospital. Dr. Cunningham has created instrumentation and methods that will enable more precise, better targeted drug delivery to specific brain areas for the treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative disease. The MTTC funded the development of a working prototype of a new instrument and its initial testing on an animal model. With a manufacturing partner, Dr. Cunningham secured an SBIR award that will support the final stages of development of the Intracerebral Microinjection Instrument device, including FDA approval. The company has recently recruited a seasoned entrepreneur to lead the company and is seeking additional funding. Atanse is readying two years worth of preclinical animal data to support initial 510(k) applications.

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Promethean Power Systems

Sorin Grama, from MIT, has come a long way since he won an MTTC Assessment Award in 2006 for his project “Synergetic Power Systems”. He spent the $5K identifying market and customer needs in India for the Solar HVAC Booster. By 2008, he formed Promethean Power Systems in Cambridge MA, which has developed a solar-powered refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries.

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Hepregen

Hepregen Corporation, is commercializing a core technology that was developed by MIT Professor, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, in collaboration with Dr. Salman Khetani, former post-doctoral fellow in Bhatia’s lab. Drs. Bhatia and Khetani co-invented the microliver platform, HepatoPaC®. Proof of concept funding from the MTTC and MIT’s Deshpande Center was used to show the commercial viability of the technology. The pharmaceutical industry is the initial target market segment for HepatoPaC®where it will be used as a platform to conduct sophisticated screening of compounds in development. Hepregen has recruited experienced management and raised several million in venture capital funding. The company has also secured $2.5 million in grant funding from the NIH and the NSF.

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Novavax

In 2005, Dr. Trudy Morrison from the UMass Medical School, won an MTTC award for her project “Development of Virus-like Particles as a Vaccine for Newcastle Disease Virus”. Since then, Morrison has been able to demonstrate that virus-like particles, based on Newcastle disease virus proteins can be used as a platform for the development for the of human vaccines. Novavax has licensed exclusive worldwide rights for the development and commercialization of parmyxovirus vaccines incorporating certain Virus-Like-Particles (‘VLP’).

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