photo by Michael Miller

Life Sciences Center Doles Out $2.3M in Loans


By Lori Valigra and Patricia Resende

April 25, 2012 -- Early-stage companies with a micro-catheter for neurological conditions, a device for rectally delivered medications, metabolic profiling technology, a near real-time microbial monitoring system, and a device to triage potential stroke patients were granted a combined $2.3 million in loans from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The center, a quasi-public agency tasked with dispersing the state’s 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative, approved its fifth round of Accelerator Program loans Tuesday. That program provides loans of up to $750,000 to early-stage companies engaged in life sciences research and development, commercialization and manufacturing. The aim is to de-risk early-stage companies by providing loans that will match other sources of capital. The center has invested $9.6 million in 16 early-stage companies that to date have raised more than $70 million in follow-on funding.

“Entrepreneurship is essential to the strength of our innovation economy, and the Life Sciences Center’s Accelerator Program is playing a crucial role in helping early-stage life sciences companies,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement. “We look forward to working with these companies as they put down roots and grow in Massachusetts, supporting the future of innovation right here.”

Winning in this round is Alcyone Lifesciences Inc. of Ayer, which received $750,000. The company is developing a novel micro-catheter for treating neurological conditions. This micro-catheter platform uses a proprietary microfluidic design for delivery of drug/active molecules directly to the central nervous system. Alcyone recently was picked by Mass High Tech as a startup to watch, and it raised $1.8 million in March. The company is currently focused on adding staff to continue product development and proceed with regulatory submission.

"The application and due diligence process with Mass Life Sciences Center has been rewarding for Alcyone Lifesciences," Alcyone Founder and CEO PJ Anand told Mass High Tech. "This loan provides us the opportunity to get to a critical value inflection point and hire key talent in Massachusetts. Being awarded this loan after an in depth review of the company’s scientific and business value proposition by the Mass LifeSciences Centers spectacular scientific and business advisory board is a significant validation for our team, technology and investor syndicate."

Christcot Medical Co. of Sudbury was awarded a $257,000 loan. The emerging medical device company focuses on chronic medical conditions that could use rectally delivered medications. Its new device, InsertEase, is a suppository applicator that the company said improves the effectiveness of the medication delivered and is expected to improve compliance. The product is the first rectal suppository applicator to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing and distribution. The team is focused on scaling up for manufacturing by building a multi-cavity mold and expanding licensing coverage.

HepatoChem Inc. of Beverly received a $330,000 loan award. It is a revenue-producing company working on metabolite profiling and production leveraging technology from Princeton University. The company last October took in $100,000 in an initial funding round from New Jersey-based investor Heartland Bridge Capital Inc. under an agreement that could bring in $400,000.

The initial goal is to create a fee-for-service business to develop proprietary small molecules for the drug industry based on unique chemical reactions by porphyrins and other catalysts. The longer term goal is to develop a drug discovery business for active metabolites, natural compounds, and lead generation. The focus of the current two employees is on adding equipment and capacity, and the company wants to add chemist and business development staff for continued customer acquisition and revenue expansion.

Sample6 Technologies of Boston nabbed a $750,000 loan. The company is building what it said is the world’s first “near real time” microbial monitoring system with initial application in the food industry. The company’s goal is to be the “smoke alarm” of pathogen detection, and to provide extremely high sensitivity and cloud-based data management. A team of 10 is currently focused on product development, and with the loan the company will try to expedite product development and expand the sales and marketing team.

Strohl Medical Technologies of Weymouth, whose product was among the Mass Technology Leadership Council finalists last July, pulled in a $245,000 loan. The company is creating a new medical device, NeuroEPG, for triaging potential stroke patients in order to accelerate their time to treatment. With technology licensed from Tufts University, a small focused team has developed a product and found high sensitivity in a 30-patient clinical study. The company is currently preparing to commercialize the product by submitting their FDA 510 (k) application. The kit components are all being manufactured in Massachusetts and they are also in the process of identifying a local contract manufacturer for testing the device. Additional clinical evaluation is planned for three Massachusetts hospitals.