Life Sciences Community Convenes at Chicago BioCapital Summit in a Showcase of Local Innovation
Hosted by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), the inaugural Chicago BioCapital Summit this week brought together industry, academia, and investors in a showcase of the latest innovations in the life sciences and biotech space.
The CBC is a unique organization that stimulates and accelerates biomedical discovery and collaboration among the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago, and Northwestern University – and it recently received an additional $13.5 million in funding to expand this mission.
Among those who spoke, included UChicago Associate Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research, Lev Becker. The cofounder of Onchilles Pharma, Becker’s research combines proteomics, bioinformatics, immunologic, biochemistry, and functional approaches to study the role of macrophages across a spectrum of diseases.
N17350 is the first drug candidate out of the company’s platform, which is based on the breakthrough discovery of a novel mechanism of action inspired by the immunobiology of neutrophils. Preclinical data show N17350 “broadly and selectively kills cancer cells, stimulates robust adaptive and innate immune responses, and does not induce resistance after repeated treatments.”
Allison Squires, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Molecular Engineering, also presented. Her research interests center on manipulating, measuring, and understanding the properties and behavior of single molecules.
The Squires Lab employs single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy and single-molecule manipulation and confinement to develop sensing platforms that report on spectroscopic identity, molecular dynamics, and nanoscale energy transfer. These approaches are useful in a wide range of scientific contexts.
The event also featured a “Hall of Inventions.” UChicago startups and researchers represented included:
AddGraft // AddGraft’s cell therapy platform is building stem cell-based bio factories capable of producing and deploying any protein directly into a patient’s bloodstream. AddGraft hopes to address some of the major problems with current cell therapies including toxicity, transgene capacity, dose flexibility and control, stable long-term expression, and complicated CMC with an ex vivo method of introducing genetically modified stem cells. Addgraft’s technology is based on the work of UChicago professors Xiaoyang Wu and Ming Xu. CEO Ryan Meyers is a Chicago Booth alum.
Bryan Dickinson // Professor of chemistry Bryan Dickinson aims to harness the power of evolution to solve molecular design challenges and pave the way to new medicines for seemingly intractable diseases by developing new evolution technologies, engineering RNA-targeting biotechnologies, and leveraging chemical biology to study biomolecular interactions. Dickinson has developed a human protein-based programmable RNA delivery system and programmable RNA reader proteins to better study the roles of regulatory sites in the transcriptome. He is also the founder of Tornado Bio, a company developing RNA-programmable therapies.
CancerIQ // CancerIQ is a precision prevention platform that empowers healthcare providers to engage patients, stratify risk, and ensure adherence with the latest evidence-based strategies to get ahead of cancer. CEO and cofounder Feyi Olopade Ayodele participated in the Polsky Center’s 2013 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC). Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine Olufunmilayo Olopade, is the fellow cofounder and CSO of the company, which closed a $14 million Series B financing round in 2022.
CellCipher // CellCipher is bringing together a novel human organoid model, single-cell genomics, and machine learning with the goal of identifying better and safer drugs earlier in the drug development pipeline. CellCipher’s Multi-Tissue Organoid system is highly replicable, scalable, and captures over 70 human cell types that faithfully recapitulate expected patterns of gene expression. Cofounder and CEO Katie Rhodes, is a postdoctoral researcher studying gene regulation in the lab of Yoav Gilad, fellow cofounder and professor of medicine.
Clarix Imaging // Clarix Imaging’s mission is to empower clinicians with clear tumor visualization and intelligent analysis for precision and personalized medicine based on breakthrough innovations in imaging science and AI. The company’s first product is the FDA-cleared true 3D VSI-360, which offers surgeons and radiologists unprecedented clarity for intraoperative specimen margin visualization in breast cancer surgeries such as lumpectomy – right inside the operating room. CEO and cofounder Xiaochuan Pan, is a professor of radiology. The company earlier in October secured $10 million to advance its novel imaging-based solution for surgical oncology.
Claudyn // Claudyn has developed a novel class of molecules that block claudin-2 pores to prevent paracellular ion and water transport. These molecules increase epithelial barrier function, reduce sodium and water transport in human organoids, and limit colitis in mouse models of IBD. In contrast to existing therapies that target the immune system, claudin-2 blockers target the tight junction, do not suppress the immune system, and act without need for absorption. Cofounder and associate professor of pathology Chris Weber is a physician-scientist who studies tight junction biology in the gut. He collaborates with Le Shen, a research professor at UChicago, and Fatemeh Khalili-Araghi, an associate professor at the University of Illinois Chicago.
ClostraBio // Based on the work of Jeffrey Hubbell, Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering, and Cathryn Nagler, Bunning Family Professor, ClostraBio offers versatile solutions for bacterial metabolites delivery. Non-communicable diseases are associated with impaired barrier function due to an altered intestinal microbiome. ClostraBio directly delivers bacterial metabolites via a proprietary, oral, targeted metabolite delivery platform to enable metabolites to achieve their maximum therapeutic potential. ClostraBio last year closed a $4 million Series A-1 financing round to accelerate development of its lead candidate, expand its plug-n-play platform, and build out its team.
Concilio // Concilio uses a patented nanotechnology platform to effectively deliver miR-92a inhibitor to inflamed endothelial cells. The first indication is arteriovenous fistula (AVF) failure. Intravenous administration of Concilio’s therapeutic would limit the number of follow-up surgeries needed for renal dialysis patients. President Matthew Tirrell is the D. Gale Johnson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and former inaugural Dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. CSO Yun Fang, is an American Heart Association Fellow and associate professor and CEO Jeffrey Hubbell is the Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering and Vice Dean at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.
Covira Surgical // Covira discovers and develops novel therapeutics for modulating the gut microbiome to prevent diseases. Covira’s lead asset (CS-0003) is a platform technology that modulates bacterial virulence and restores microbial communities to prevent post-surgical infection. It is backed by three decades of field-defining research by John Alverdy, Sara and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor of Surgery.
Evozyne // Evozyne uses evolutionary deep learning to mimic millions of years of evolution in the lab. Using sequence-based computational algorithms for molecular design, the team designs adaptive, high-performance proteins that solve long-standing challenges in therapeutics and sustainability. The company recently announced an $81 million Series B investment round. CSO Rama Ranganathan, Joseph Regenstein Professor, cofounded the company in 2019.
Riptide Therapeutics // Riptide Therapeutics is taking a novel approach to modulating telomerase, an enzyme found in cancer cells but not healthy cells. The company’s lead product is RTTX401, a novel synthetic telomerase inhibitor that targets telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT), sensitizing tumors to radiation therapy and increasing activation of the immune system against tumors in mouse models. Cofounder Steve Kron, is a professor of molecular genetics and cell biology. Riptide earlier this year was awarded $175,000 from the Polsky Center’s George Shultz Innovation Fund.
Juan Mendoza // Juan Mendoza, is an assistant professor of molecular engineering. His research brings together cancer research, bioinformatics, protein engineering, structural biology, and immunology to forge a new path forward in the discovery and design of new immunotherapeutics through novel approaches in “tuning” cytokine signaling within cells. The Mendoza lab is developing a new class of type 3 IFNs that will potently act at mucosal barriers, like in the respiratory system, and may act as exciting low-toxicity broad-acting drugs preventing and treating respiratory viral infections.
OrisDX // OrisDX’s first product is a saliva test focused on detecting oral squamous cell carcinoma, the most common head and neck cancer. Using biomarker-based molecular genomic techniques to diagnose oral cavity cancers earlier, OrisDX’s technology is based on the latest science and has been proven in clinical studies. OrisDX won the 2022 NVC, taking home $655,000 in investment, including the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize. It also was a finalist in the George Shultz Innovation Fund. OrisDX was founded based on science developed through a decade of foundational research by top physicians and scientists at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University, including UChicago’s Medicine’s Nishant Agrawal. Other cofounders include Chetan Bettegowda, Rifat Hasina, and Evgeny Izumchenko.
ReAx Biotechnologies // ReAx applies next-generation chemical proteomic platforms to discover, optimize, and deliver small molecules directly into cells. This enables discovery within proteomic “dark-matter,” offering novel, high-value protein targets for oncology and immunological diseases. ReAx’s platform technology originated from the lab of Raymond Moellering, associate professor, whose research integrates chemical synthesis, cell biology, and mass spectrometry platforms to identify novel biological mechanisms underlying diseases. The company received $150,000 investment from the George Shultz Innovation Fund in 2021.
Tensor // By combining new statistical methods, patient samples, and transcriptional profiling, the Raman Lab is delineating the ‘language’ of cancer to fuel the next generation of therapies, diagnostics, and prognostics. As a proof-of-concept, the lab has perfectly distinguished responders from non-responders in a published paper on immunotherapy efficacy in melanoma, and identified the cell types mediating responder status. Cofounder Arjun Raman is the Joseph Regenstein Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Valijuvant Vaccines // Valjuvant Vaccines aims to make vaccines better by reducing side effects, improving durability, protecting better and against more, and expanding into therapeutic areas. Valjuvant Vaccines has several pipeline products up to the pre-clinical stage and targeting infectious diseases such as flu, typhoid, and Covid. Founder Aaron Esser-Kahn is a professor of molecular engineering.
// The CBC was launched in 2006 with a generous annual grant award from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. To date, more than $76 million has been invested into CBC initiatives to promote Chicago’s biomedical community resulting in more than 323 awards granted, over 2,715 research papers published, six national research centers established, and over $920 million dedicated to research funding. Learn more at chicagobiomedicalconsortium.org.