BU Wins Life Sciences Capital Grants


Support for regenerative medicine, biotech training, biophotonics startups

By Sara Rimer, BU Research

Darrell Kotton (from left), Constance Phillips, and Thomas Bifano accepted capital funding awards from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Darrell Kotton (from left), Constance Phillips, and Thomas Bifano accepted capital funding awards from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) has awarded $1.74 million to Boston University’s Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) to help build a new lung regeneration facility. The new facility, to be housed at CReM on the Medical Campus, will bring together academic and industry scientists from across the state to apply stem cell biology advances to developing new treatments for cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases.

In two additional capital funding awards to the University, the MLSC gave a $180,000 grant to the undergraduate Biomedical Laboratory & Clinical Sciences (BLCS) program, a collaboration between Metropolitan College and the School of Medicine, and awarded $363,750 to the Photonics Center for a new incubator for biophotonics start-ups.

MLSC, an investment agency that supports life sciences research and development, announced the awards—and an additional $15 million in grants to other educational institutions and medical centers in Boston and Cambridge—at a March 18 ceremony at Roxbury Community College.

“We are delighted that both the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine as well as the Biomedical Laboratory & Clinical Sciences program have received this honor from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center,” says Karen Antman, MED dean and provost of the Medical Campus. “Their investments in these programs will help patients with pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and acute lung injury as well as provide students with the necessary equipment as they train for careers in the biotechnology field.”

The Photonics Center grant will be used to create laboratory space at its Business Innovation Center for up to four start-up companies. The Photonics Center is a national leader in biophotonics research, which uses light to understand cellular behavior and to diagnose and treat diseases.

“We are grateful for the award from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for improvements to the biophotonics facilities at the Business Innovation Center and for their support of innovation and economic development in the state,” says center director Thomas Bifano, a College of Engineering professor of mechanical engineering and materials science & engineering, who accepted the award. “The Innovation Center has a track record of success in technology transfer and job creation that has helped retain the pipeline of talented engineering and science graduates in the state. The award will further enhance our reputation as a leader in commercialization of biophotonic technologies.”

The goal of the new lung regeneration facility is the clinical application of recent discoveries in stem cell research that have been led by CReM codirectors Darrell Kotton, a MED professor of medicine and pathology, and Gustavo Mostoslavsky and George Murphy, both MED assistant professors of medicine.

Kotton says he was honored to receive the award, which will help build the new facility for the Lung Regeneration Initiative. “This facility will enable scale-up of the production, banking, and national sharing of pluripotent stem cells made by reprogramming blood specimens from patients who suffer from lung diseases,” he says. “Most importantly, the proposed facility will allow both academic and industry scientists from across the state to focus on the goal of achieving personalized treatment applications based on individualized drug tests performed in culture dishes using lung cells made from each patient’s banked stem cells. We believe this approach is desperately needed to develop new treatments for the many lung diseases for which there are currently ineffective treatment options. This is an important and exciting step towards our research community’s ultimate goal of accomplishing successful lung repair and regeneration in our patients.”

The BLCS award was accepted by program director Constance Phillips (SPH’91), a MED research assistant professor of medical sciences and education. It will be used for essential equipment, including a small bioreactor and an HPLC protein chromatography unit, and to help launch an electronic laboratory information and management system to train students in the ever-evolving methods of record-keeping in the biotech industry. “The BLCS program is grateful and honored to be a grant recipient of the MLSC capital improvement grant,” Phillips says. “Their continued support of our programs enables us to enhance our laboratory offerings to students who will help keep Massachusetts strong in the life sciences.”

The other institutions that received MLSC capital grants include Roxbury Community College, Boston Children’s Hospital, the Forysth Institute, jointly with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A version of this article originally appeared on the BU Research website.