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MIT-Deshpande Center, RXi Pharmaceuticals, University of Massachusetts Medical School, SparkIP, Oncologix Tech, University of Maryland, Strathclyde Innovation Fund, University of Strathclyde-Glasgow, Beike Biotechnology, University of Colorado, BioRelix,

MIT’s Deshpande Center Awards $700K in ‘Ignition’ Grants
The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week announced $700,000 in grants to support nine MIT research teams currently developing early-stage technologies – six of which are in the life sciences arena.
The fall 2008 grant recipients include:
  • Utkan Demirci and Martha Gray, for a disposable CD-4 T-lymphocyte-counting microchip for on-site HIV monitoring in the developing world (renewal from fall 2007 grant round)
  • Gerald Fink, for a compound to stimulate a more powerful immune response to specific monoclonal antibodies (renewal from fall 2007 grant round)
  • Rohit Karnik and Jeffrey Karp, for a device for separating cells that could be used to monitor or diagnose a variety of diseases
  • Susan Lindquist, for developing therapeutic strategies to combat difficult-to-treat bacterial biofilm infections (renewal from Spring 2008 grant round)
  • Christopher Love, for an in vitro test designed to improve the accuracy of assessing responses to allergens, and to enable long-term allergy monitoring
  • Graham Walker, for isolating lead compounds to develop a new antibiotic.
The Deshpande Center did not disclose individual award amounts.
Each spring and fall, the Deshpande Center awards ignition grants and innovation grants to enable proof-of-concept studies for MIT technologies.

RXi Pharmaceuticals Licenses Oral RNAi Delivery Tech from UMass Medical
RXi Pharmaceuticals this week said that it has licensed exclusive worldwide rights from the University of Massachusetts Medical School to certain technology for orally delivering RNAi therapeutics.
The technology was developed by Michael Czech, professor and chair of molecular medicine at UMMS and an RXi founder; and Gary Ostroff, professor of molecular medicine at UMMS and an RXi collaborator.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
In a statement, Tod Woolf, president and CEO of RXi, said that “the development of technology that potentially enables oral delivery represents a truly dramatic advance for the field of RNAi therapeutics, and could open up significant market opportunities for RXi.”
RXi said that it intends to continue working with pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners to discover and develop orally delivered RNAi therapeutics for several inflammatory diseases.
RXi, based in Worcester, Mass., is a 45-percent owned affiliate of Los Angeles biopharmaceutical company CytRx.

SparkIP Offers Free IP Posting to Non-Profits; Names New Contributors to Database
Online intellectual property research and marketplace SparkIP said this week that it has added more than 2,000 licensable technologies from eight new organizations to its database.
The company also announced this week that corporations, universities, and government labs can post available technologies to the SparkIP marketplace for free.
The new organizations contributing technologies are: National University of Ireland, Maynouth; Auburn University; France Transfert Technologies; the Texas A&M University system; University of California, Davis; UC-Santa Barbara; University of Colorado; and University of South Carolina.

Oncologix and University of Maryland Modify Medical Device License Agreement
Oncologix Tech said this week that it has modified a master licensing agreement with the University of Maryland to extend a milestone date related to filing an investigational device exemption for a licensed product to regulatory authorities.
Oncologix and the University of Maryland modified the licensing agreement to accommodate the proposed purchase of the company’s Oncosphere radiation therapy device assets by German device manufacturer IUT Medical.
The previous date for the milestone was Sept. 16, 2008. The modified date is Jan. 5, 2009.
Oncologix said that the extension is subject to shareholder approval as well as a number of terms and conditions that ensure IUT and the University of Maryland agree on various aspects of a new agreement between them.
Judy Lindstrom, CEO of Oncologix, in a statement expressed “great pleasure in this additional step toward completing the sale of the Oncosphere technology to IUT Medical” and that the company is “confident that the remaining steps, including approval by our shareholders, will soon be accomplished.”
Oncologix Tech, formerly BestNet Communications, provided long-distance telephone communication services but disposed of that business in January 2007. The company was developing a brachytherapy device, the Oncosphere system, for treating soft tissue cancere until it suspended operations at the end of December 2007 because of financial difficulties.
The Oncosphere technology is based on radioactive microparticles designed to deliver therapeutic radiation directly to a tumor site. The underlying technology was licensed from the University of Maryland.

Strathclyde Innovation Fund Raises £4.5M to Invest in University Tech
The Strathclyde Innovation Fund, which invests in early-stage technologies developed at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, has raised £4.5 million ($7.8 million) in private investments to support its operations.
The fund has the exclusive right of first refusal to fund all commercial investment opportunities arising from the university’s intellectual property.
Investors include the technology commercialization and investment management firm Braveheart; Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Co-Investment Fund; Strathclyde alumni; and the university itself.
Braveheart, which will act as fund manager, will pool its resources with the university’s research and innovation office to help with the commercialization process.
Under the terms of the agreement, Braveheart will manage the fund and pay 25 percent of its fund manager’s performance bonus back to the university. The fund will operate for an initial period of eight years, extendable to 10 with the agreement of the partners.
In addition, the university will use Braveheart’s investor network to act as non-executive directors to companies in the fund portfolio.

China’s Beike Biotech Inks Eight Collaborations with Hospitals, Schools
Chinese biotech company Beike Biotechnology said last week that it has signed eight separate mutual cooperation agreements with stem-cell research organizations around the world.
As part of the agreements, Shenzhen-based Beike has also established a stem cell expert advisory committee and a separate data and safety monitoring board to oversee future Beike-sponsored research.
The eight organizations are: Aelcell of Stanford, Calif; Nanjing Medical University; the China Medical City; Hua Zhong Technical University; the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Jiangsu People’s Hospital, the No. 2 Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, and the Wu Hu City No. 2 People’s Hospital in Anhui, China.
Beike said that the organizations will share resources, research information, and best practices with the company.

University of Colorado Licenses Anti-Infective Drug Discovery Tech to BioRelix
The University of Colorado said last week that BioRelix has exclusively licensed riboswitch technology from the school to discover and develop new anti-infective compounds against pathogens that are resistant to currently available drugs.
The riboswitch technology describes short stretches of messenger RNA that bind small metabolites and control genes required for the survival of many disease-causing bacteria. Therefore, the technology can be used to develop compounds that can overcome bacterial resistance to current therapeutics.
The technology was developed by Robert Batey in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at CU-Boulder. BioRelix, based in New Haven, Conn., was founded in 2005.
The company previously licensed jointly owned UC-Yale University riboswitch technology through a license with Yale; as well as a different riboswitch technology through another license with UC.

ImmunoCellular Files for US Patent on Cancer Vaccine Tech Licensed From Cedars-Sinai
ImmunoCellular Therapeutics said last week that a provisional US patent application has been filed for its novel vaccine technology targeting cancer stem cells.
The vaccine technology is exclusively licensed from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. ImmunoCellular said that the patent claims include compositions of peptides for cancer immunotherapy, as well as methods for inducing immune responses against tumor antigens in cancer patients.
Terms of the licensing agreement with Cedars-Sinai were not disclosed.

Cell Projects, Queen's University to Develop Electroporation Technologies
Cell Projects has signed a licensing and joint development agreement with Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, to develop new electroporation technologies for adherent and in situ cell electroporation.
According to a statement released this week by Maidstone, UK-based Cell Projects, the new technology allows DNA, peptides, siRNA, and other molecules to be transported into cultured, adherent cells while the cells are still attached to their growing surface.
The technology “will enable a greater understanding of specific cellular activities that to date have been difficult to analyze yet are known to be important in further understanding the mechanism of cancer, and other biological problems,” said Tom Hole, managing director of Cell Projects.
Financial terms of the alliance were not disclosed.

The Scan

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.

Researchers Retrace Key Mutations in Reassorted H1N1 Swine Flu Virus With Avian-Like Features

Mutations in the acidic polymerase-coding gene boost the pathogenicity and transmissibility of Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza viruses, a PNAS paper finds.

Genome Sequences Reveal Evolutionary History of South America's Canids

An analysis in PNAS of South American canid species' genomes offers a look at their evolutionary history, as well as their relationships and adaptations.

Lung Cancer Response to Checkpoint Inhibitors Reflected in Circulating Tumor DNA

In non-small cell lung cancer patients, researchers find in JCO Precision Oncology that survival benefits after immune checkpoint blockade coincide with a dip in ctDNA levels.