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UB spinoff Abcombi Biosciences lands coveted spot in Johnson & Johnson's Toronto incubator

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Thu, May 12th 2016 11:30 am

By the University at Buffalo

It has been quite a year for University at Buffalo spinoff company Abcombi Biosciences.

Since forming last June, the biomedical startup has:

  • Received a $323,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
  • Completed preclinical trials for a promising pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Been accepted into the START-UP NY economic development program.

In another indication of the company's fast-growing potential, it has been accepted into JLABS @ Toronto, a prestigious new biomedical research incubator spearheaded by Johnson & Johnson, the global medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer.

"We're honored to be part of the inaugural group of startups at JLABS @ Toronto," said Abcombi CEO Charles Jones, who received a Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering from UB last year. "Connecting our Buffalo headquarters to this one-of-a-kind incubator program will help us bring to market medical advancements that will alleviate suffering for millions of people worldwide."

JLABS bills itself as a "no-strings attached" incubator, meaning companies pay only rent while receiving lab space, use of equipment, mentorship and other services at no cost.

The Toronto facility, which can accommodate 50 startups, has opened in the city's MaRS Discovery District, a nonprofit corporation working to commercialize medical research and other technologies. It is the sixth JLABS incubator created by Johnson & Johnson. The other facilities are in California, Texas and Massachusetts.

Abcombi was formed last June at UB to commercialize two innovations: a protein-based vaccine platform and a new drug delivery method, developed in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences research laboratories of Blaine Pfeifer and Jonathan Lovell, respectively.

"The work Charles has done to commercialize these UB-developed technologies and develop Abcombi Biosciences into a world-class biomedical startup is nothing short of spectacular," said Pfeifer, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering, who oversaw Jones' dissertation and co-developed the protein-based vaccine platform.

Both Pfeifer and Lovell, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering, are co-founders of Abcombi. The company is working with Lovell's "nanoballoon" innovation, which uses modified liposomes that, upon being struck by a red laser, pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine.

Abcombi, which recently won first place in the biotechnology category of the New York Business Plan competition, gained acceptance in JLABS @ Toronto with the help of UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach. It will remain in its headquarters at 73 High St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and move the bulk of its laboratory work to Toronto this summer.

The company is developing a stable of products, but its initial emphasis is on developing a new vaccine for pneumococcal disease, which is an infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infection.

In the U.S. alone, 1 million people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and up to 7 percent of those people die from it, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

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