Harvard’s Wyss Institute Creates Research And Innovation Alliance With Northpond Labs
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Northpond commits $12 million to create a Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation at the Wyss Institute for solutions-oriented research and development
NOVEMBER 18, 2020 — Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has established its first research and innovation alliance by joining forces with Northpond Labs, the research and development-focused affiliate of a leading science and technology-driven venture capital firm, Northpond Ventures. Through the alliance, Northpond Labs will provide $12 million to create a Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation at the Wyss Institute and to support impactful research with strong translation potential.
The vision for the five-year strategic alliance was developed by senior leadership at Northpond Labs and the Wyss Institute, including Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber and Northpond’s Founder and CEO Michael Rubin. In close partnership with Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), both groups have finalized the collaboration agreement and the agreement for the first funded research project.
As a first translation focus of the alliance, Northpond Labs through the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation will sponsor research on the Wyss Institute’s Controlled Enzymatic RNA Synthesis technology to accelerate its development toward commercialization. The novel synthesis approach was created in the Institute’s Synthetic Biology platform and has been funded internally as a translationally focused Wyss Validation Project. The technology leverages a new enzyme-based method of generating synthetic RNA oligonucleotides, which have potential as RNA therapeutics, drug delivery vehicles, and genome engineering tools for a variety of disease applications. By using an engineered enzyme without the need for resource-intensive chemistry, it may provide a more effective and environmentally conscious way to synthesize RNA oligonucleotides than conventional chemical approaches used in industry.
The Wyss Institute has developed a new model for innovation, collaboration, and technology translation within academia, breaking historical silos to enable collaborations that cross institutional and disciplinary barriers. The unique translation model spans the full trajectory, from identifying high-value, real-world problems and developing disruptive technology solutions, to refining, optimizing, and validating these technologies so that they are well-positioned for impactful new licensing and start-up opportunities. This novel approach for technology translation within academia, working in collaboration with Harvard OTD, has so far yielded 3,291 patent filings and 75 licensing deals, including 39 new startups.
Through a separate arrangement with Harvard and the Wyss Institute, Northpond is providing an additional $3 million in funding to the Institute to support discovery efforts and to create and fund the Northpond Director’s Innovation Fund. This fund will bolster the pursuit and growth of Wyss projects that have the potential to solve important unmet problems in the world, even when the path to commercialization remains unclear. In particular, the fund will be used to support early projects in areas including synthetic biology, biomanufacturing, synthesis of DNA and proteins, and clean water.
“This alliance represents an exciting new mechanism for supporting innovation and providing opportunities for translating discoveries that we at the Wyss Institute have made and are advancing inside academia. Given the Northpond team’s deep experience in life sciences and technology, we are excited about the potential this collaboration offers for growth with their support and invaluable perspectives. We see this as the first of many such partnerships that the Wyss Institute will establish in the future,” said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“We have been impressed by the collaborative and solutions-oriented approach to research at the Wyss Institute, and by the depth and breadth of innovations that it has generated,” said Michael Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Northpond Ventures and Labs. Rubin will collaborate with the Institute’s Technology Translation Director, Angelika Fretzen, Ph.D., to help oversee the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation and advance the shared vision. In addition to helping to oversee the Laboratory’s program, Rubin will hold an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at the Wyss Institute, to enhance technology translation through community engagement and education.
This strategic alliance represents the first of what the Institute hopes will be multiple collaborations with the investment, corporate, and philanthropic communities that combine targeted investments in basic and applied research with flexible financial contributions; the goal of these collaborations is to sustain the remarkable level of innovation and intellectual property creation that the Institute has demonstrated since its founding almost 12 years ago.
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing that are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and formation of new startups. The Wyss Institute creates transformative technological breakthroughs by engaging in high risk research, and crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers, working as an alliance that includes Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences and Design, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University, Tufts University, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, University of Zurich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more information, please visit http://wyss.harvard.edu.
Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) promotes the public good by fostering innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard University into useful products that are available and beneficial to society. Our integrated approach to technology development comprises sponsored research and corporate alliances, intellectual property management, and technology commercialization through venture creation and licensing. More than 70 startups have launched to commercialize Harvard technologies in the past 5 years, collectively raising more than $2.5 billion in financing. To further bridge the academic-industry development gap, Harvard OTD manages the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator and the Physical Sciences & Engineering Accelerator. For more information, please visit https://otd.harvard.edu.
Northpond Ventures is a science-driven venture capital firm. Northpond partners with leading scientists, academics, and entrepreneurs to develop and empower breakthrough science and technology that transforms humanity. The firm has over $2 billion in committed capital and offices in San Francisco, Cambridge, and Bethesda. Northpond was founded with a mission to build a better tomorrow. Learn more at www.npv.vc.
Northpond Labs is the firm’s research and development-focused affiliate. Northpond Labs collaborates with universities, research centers, and scientists to fund translational research that is poised to be the foundation of new ventures and scientific discovery.
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
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