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Emory recognizes faculty entrepreneurs for technology and innovation

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Faculty entrepreneurs and their discoveries were recognized at the Office of Technology Transfer’s 15th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation. The virtual program was held June 30.

Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) recognized its faculty entrepreneurs and their discoveries at its 15th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation. The event was held virtually on June 30.

The winners in the four categories were: 

Innovation of the year

Serological test for SARS-COV-2

Mehul Suthar, PhD; Jens Wrammert, PhD; John Roback, PhD; Rafi Ahmed, PhD

The impact of COVID-19 has been globally devastating, making it incredibly important to understand the immune response that provides protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The inventors of the serological test for SARS-CoV-2 investigated the dynamics of the antibody response to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein and virus neutralization activity in acutely infected individuals. Using this information, they have developed an assay capable of detecting the immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the receptor-binding domain of the target sequences. The inventors have also found that serum collected from COVID-19 patients is capable of neutralizing the virus. The results of their research have implications in testing, therapeutics and vaccine development as it relates to the virus. Their findings illustrate that the RBD assay is highly specific and sensitive, which is important as COVID-19 serological tests are needed to assess immunity and predict patient outcomes.

Deal of the year

Phaeno, Inc.: A method for full-length RNA deep sequencing with existing next-generation technology

William Agnew, PhD (School of Medicine); Mark Emerick, PhD (School of Medicine)

In 2020, Emory University entered into a license agreement with Phaeno, Inc. for a method for full-length RNA deep sequencing with existing next-generation technology. As is now known, it is not just the DNA sequence that drives gene function and protein synthesis. Each gene has numerous splice variants, and some of these can have profound effects on the functions of the proteins they encode. This technology provides a method for rapidly identifying the parent gene of previously unknown splice variant or RNA product. Access and availability of a fast, affordable whole-transcriptome analysis is key for development of targeted medicine due to tissue-specific differences or mutations in protein expression due to cancer. Agnew and Emerick have developed a process that combines existing next-generation sequencing technology with unique molecular identification tags to track and identify RNA products back to their originating gene. Phaeno, Inc. has been accepted by the highly selective EvoNexus incubator program after a rigorous interview process.

Start-up of the year

IN8BIO – Series A financing

H. Trent Spencer, PhD

IN8bio (formerly Incysus Therapeutics, Inc.) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company whose mission is to develop new, innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer. The company utilizes gamma-delta T cells to create autologous, allogeneic and genetically modified therapies for liquid and solid tumors. IN8bio has received substantial financial backing since licensing the “Drug Resistant Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Cancer” technology from Emory University in 2016. Most recently in 2020, IN8bio raised $25.8 million in capital in a Series A Funding round.

Significant event of the year

Aligos Therapeutics, Inc. – Initial Public Offering

Raymond F. Schinazi, PhD; Franck Amblard, PhD; Leda Bassit, PhD

Aligos Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing targeted therapies for hepatologic diseases and viral infections. In October 2020, Aligos became publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “ALGS.” The company’s success as a public company comes after two successful financing rounds as a private company. In 2018, Aligos licensed from Emory an HBV capsid inhibitor technology that is currently being evaluated in Phase 1 trials.

Interviews with the winners can be found here.

About Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer

Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer has more than 30 years of success in guiding scientific discoveries from the laboratory into the marketplace. Emory currently manages more than 1,500 technologies disclosed by its scientists and physicians. This has led to the formation of 103 new companies and the introduction of more than 55 new products into the marketplace, some of which, like the discovery of several HIV drugs, have had major health and societal impact.  

Emory startups have received $2.1 billion in private investment capital, $512 million in public investment capital, and $14.2 billion from mergers and acquisitions. Emory has filed 3,055 patent applications and been issued 572 U.S. patents since FY2000. In that time, Emory has executed more than 735 license agreements with industry, resulting in more than $870 million in licensing revenue, creating additional funding for new and ongoing research.

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