A new technology led by UB faculty member Sathy Balu-Iyer that has the potential to treat autoimmune diseases and improve the success of gene therapy is one of four SUNY research projects that recently received investments from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF).
Funded jointly by SUNY and the SUNY Research Foundation, TAF helps faculty inventors and scientists turn their research into market-ready technologies.
Balu-Iyer, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has developed a nanoparticle that has been shown to reduce the ability of biologic drugs to trigger an immune response that would lower the effectiveness of the drug.
Unlike conventional vaccination, this new technology, called “reverse vaccination,” “selectively desensitizes” the human immune system to a therapeutic protein,” Balu-Iyer says — in effect, “teaching” the immune system to tolerate the biologic drug — and preventing patients from experiencing an unwanted immune response during treatment that could be detrimental to their health.
The TAF investment will enable Balu-Iyer’s research team to conduct pre-clinical “proof of concept” studies to extend this technology to gene therapy, a critical step in meeting the scientific requirements of potential partners in the pharmaceutical industry.
“This funding provides critical bridge support between the time when research funding ends and commercialization support begins,” said Alexander N. Cartwright, SUNY provost and executive vice chancellor. “This is the kind of investment that ensures that the innovations developed by SUNY faculty can be brought to market, where they improve lives and positively impact state and global challenges.”
Grace Wang, SUNY vice chancellor for research and economic development, called university-based research and innovation “one of the strongest economic generators.” SUNY is at the forefront,” Wang said. “Research at SUNY produces more than 100 new technologies every year and SUNY’s TAF program helps our researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into market-ready technologies.”
The proposals submitted for funding in TAF’s Class of 2017 were evaluated by the TAF managing director with input from external experts in various fields of science and business development. Factors considered for the awards include availability of intellectual property protection, marketability, completion of a customer discovery process, commercial potential, feasibility and breadth of impact.
In addition to Balu-Iyer’s project, others receiving TAF funding focused on innovating quick and accurate testing in dairy production (University at Albany), connecting biomolecules for cancer treatment or medical imaging (Binghamton University) and enabling fast and secure data transfer (SUNY Oswego).
TAF targets critical research and development milestones — such as feasibility studies, prototyping and testing — that demonstrate an idea or innovation has commercial potential. Since its launch in 2011, TAF has invested more than $1 million to successfully advance the commercial readiness of 40 SUNY-developed innovations and has catalyzed the investment of an additional $4.4 million from external partners, including federal agencies, industry licensees and angel investors.