Author: Brian Conlin

News

FastForward 1812 Providing Startups Much Needed Space, Resources

FastForward 1812 Providing Startups Much Needed Space, Resources

Innovative solutions to wound care, technologies to relieve a strained health care system, a pill that could reverse type 2 diabetes. The path to developing and bringing these and other discoveries and innovations to market runs through the FastForward 1812 innovation hub.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures opened the 23,000-square-foot flagship space shortly after New Year’s Day. The first tenants began occupying office and co-working spaces the third week of January, and lab tenants will move in March 1. Startups have leased much of the available space already, and what remains has been strategically left empty to accommodate growth among the 18 startup tenants and the arrival of new startups.

FastForward 1812 Innovation Hub
Co-working space

“There’s high-demand in Baltimore, especially around Johns Hopkins, for affordable space and access to lab space and equipment,” says FastForward Director Brian Stansky, noting that JHTV operates two other FastForward innovation hubs in Baltimore.

“We designed FastForward 1812 with startups in mind. We want to ensure the talented innovators and entrepreneurs within Johns Hopkins and around the city have everything they need to grow their startups and bring positive change to the world.”

FastForward 1812 occupies two floors of the 1812 Ashland building that sits on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in the burgeoning Eager Park neighborhood. The top floor features an open-concept layout with offices, meeting rooms, communal workspaces and kitchen.

Downstairs, the innovation hub boasts 15,000-square-feet of lab space with private BSL2 wet labs as well as BSL2 wet lab benches in a shared space; cell culture, microscopy and cold storage rooms; shared scientific instruments and a full-time lab manager.

Cold room

Having a complete lab and accessible equipment is essential for startups in the biomedical space. Laura Dickinson, director of research and development at Gemstone Biotherapeutics, says the further development of its wound healing technology requires biosafety cabinets, incubators, a chemical fume hood and other pricey pieces of lab equipment.

“[FastForward] offers startups the opportunity to focus on what they need to do as opposed to making their own lab space,” says Dickinson, noting they will move from FastForward East to FastForward 1812. “It would be extremely cost prohibitive as a startup company to get a lab like one that FastForward provides. It has all the equipment we need to progress our research forward.”

Aside from the dedicated wet lab, Dickinson says Gemstone benefits from FastForward’s core resources, support and connections. This includes facilitating meetings with the FDA and providing guidance through its startup journey.

FastForward 1812 innovation hub
Stairwell connecting office and lab space

Brian Halak, CEO of WindMIL Therapeutics, a startup developing cell therapies for oncology indications, echoed Dickinson’s sentiments. WindMil began leasing office and lab space from FastForward East in May 2016 because of its turnkey nature.

“FastForward allowed us to get up and running quickly,” Halak says. “It has the infrastructure that allows a brand new company like ours to work on the things that will generate value without worrying about vital, but less directly value-generating activities like finding office space, ordering lab equipment and the like.”

When presented with an opportunity to move across Ashland Avenue to FastForward 1812, Halak jumped at the chance, citing the new innovation hub’s layout.

Shared Lab - FastForward 1812
Shared laboratory

“The new space is more connected. With the offices on the first floor and the labs on the lower level, it’s just one open staircase that divides the two,” Halak says. “FastForward 1812 is a better, more integrated, thoughtfully-designed version of the benefits we had at FastForward East.”

The space, services and funding opportunities that FastForward provides aim not only to accelerate the development of startups but also to keep them in the city. Since 2012, startups based on Johns Hopkins technology have raised more than $1.1 billion in funding. However, 85 percent of that funding went to build those startups in other states. FastForward aims to change that story, and in so doing, play a role in revitalizing Baltimore’s economy.

“The FastForward ecosystem we have cultivated over the past four years has helped bring life-changing innovations to market,” Stansky says. “FastForward 1812 is a continuation of our efforts to help startups become successful businesses and establish roots in Baltimore.”

Want to learn more about FastForward? Click here!

Technology Transfer

Rosacea on the Ropes? Hopkins-GSK Collaboration Could Find Cure…

Rosacea on the Ropes? Hopkins-GSK Collaboration Could Find Cure for Skin Conditions

 

Rosacea affects 16 million Americans, and contact dermatitis afflicts millions more. However, a unique industry-academic collaboration between a Johns Hopkins doctor and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) could soon change that, either through the development of a cure or a more effective treatment for those skin conditions.

Dr. Xinzhong Dong, a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, has discovered a link between a particular mast cell receptor and allergic-type reactions to foreign substances. The link makes that particular receptor an attractive target for the development of drugs that block the mast cell’s allergic-type side effects, including itchiness, redness and rashes.

“Though we haven’t shown conclusively that targeting this receptor with the right drugs can cure these conditions, that is our hypothesis,” Dong says.

With little experience in drug development, Dong says it would have been difficult to start a company that focused on finding treatments. Another option was to hand it off to a pharmaceutical company. Instead, he applied to GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge as an avenue to collaborate with the pharmaceutical company and, hopefully, identify drugs that act on the target and either cure the diseases or relieve the associated symptoms.

GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge, like similar collaboration opportunities offered by Bayer, Pfizer CTI, Celgene, AbbVie, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and others, is designed to combine the individual strengths of pharmaceutical companies and academia to accelerate drug discovery.

“Although principal investigators at universities have novel ideas for treating patients, can identify targets and generate early proof of concept data toward that goal, they often don’t have the resources to build on their findings to directly develop new medicines,” says Nakisha Holder, senior technology transfer associate at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV). “Pharmaceutical companies have the drug development infrastructure and expertise that make these collaborations effective.”

In 2014, Dong pitched his concept to a panel of GSK judges and was named one of six North American Challenge winners. This fall, after about a year of collaboration, Dong and GSK agreed to continue their working relationship as the collaboration has shown early promise for the development of an effective treatment for rosacea and contact dermatitis. This is the first such agreement, termed a Discovery Partnerships with Academia agreement (DPAc), between a Hopkins doctor and GSK.

“Collaborations like this really give basic researchers like me the opportunity to achieve our dreams,” Dong says. “We want to see that our research can translate into a real drug, but it’s a difficult path. The best path is to go with a company who has a lot of experience in developing a drug.”

“It’s a win-win situation,” Dong continues. “We can move this process much faster by collaborating.”

Interest in industry-academic collaborations has grown at Hopkins due to word-of-mouth and through the efforts of JHTV’s Corporate Partnerships team, Holder says. This year, for example, a dozen Hopkins researchers applied to be part of the Discovery Fast Track Challenge, up from four in 2014.
 

For additional information related to ongoing partnerships, interested researchers can contact Corporate Partnerships Associate Kellin Krick at krick@jhu.edu.

 

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