In 2020, the Wyss Institute established its first research and innovation alliance by joining forces with Northpond Labs, the research and development-focused affiliate of Northpond Ventures. Through the alliance, which was created with support from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD), Northpond Labs committed to provide $12 million to create the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation at the Wyss Institute to support research with strong technology translation potential.
Through a separate arrangement with Harvard University and the Wyss Institute, Northpond is providing an additional $3 million in funding to the Institute to support discovery efforts and to create and fund the Northpond Director’s Innovation Fund. This fund will bolster the pursuit and growth of Wyss projects that have the potential to solve important unmet problems in the world, even when the path to commercialization has not yet been identified. In particular, the fund will be used to support early projects in areas including synthetic biology, biomanufacturing, synthesis of DNA and proteins, and clean water.
The first technology advanced through the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation is our Controlled Enzymatic RNA Synthesis technology, which leverages a new enzyme-based method of generating synthetic RNA oligonucleotides with potential use as RNA therapeutics, drug delivery vehicles, and genome engineering tools for a variety of disease and research applications. The novel synthesis approach was initially created in the Wyss Institute’s Synthetic Biology Platform and is part of the Wyss Validation Project program. Northpond Labs is a collaborative driver in accelerating the research and timelines to translation.
In 2022, SomaCode was named the second project supported under the agreement. Created in the lab of George Church, SomaCode aims to solve a major challenge in the field of cell therapy: delivering cells to their targets in the body. To do that, it identifies unique molecular “zip codes” that are displayed on the surfaces of diseased cells and engineers therapeutic cells to home to those zip codes, making cell therapies safer and more effective.
Additionally, members of the Northpond team routinely work with Wyss researchers, enhancing the Wyss’ culture of entrepreneurship, through information sessions and one-on-one meetings. Michael P. Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Northpond Ventures and Labs, is also a Visiting Scholar at the Wyss Institute, in addition to helping oversee the Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation.
This strategic alliance embodies a new mechanism for supporting innovation and providing opportunities to empower entrepreneurial teams to translate their discoveries into commercial opportunities. It also provides an exciting blueprint for future collaborations with the investment, corporate, and philanthropic communities, with strong focus on collaboratively developing technologies and business models that will lead to important solutions to pressing environmental and healthcare problems.