Cancer-Fighting Companies Win Chance to Innovate in Southwest Virginia

Carrie Cousinsbiomedical

By Cardinal News

Three companies looking to join the battle against cancer are coming to the Roanoke-Blacksburg area, courtesy of a Johnson & Johnson Innovation challenge.

Bacchus Therapeutics of Manassas, QurCAn Therapeutics Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Minneapolis-based Luminary Therapeutics were among companies from across the world that competed last month in J&J’s Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge.

They will each receive a $100,000 grant, a one-year residency at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, access to the corporation’s JLABS life science and health care incubator in Washington, D.C., and mentorship from Johnson & Johnson experts.

“The challenge invited innovators from across the globe with an active interest in the Virginia innovation ecosystem to submit potential solutions aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology,” a news release stated.

“The awardees hope to nurture Virginia’s outstanding innovation ecosystem and spearhead innovative solutions to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients across the globe.”

When J&J announced the initiative in May, it said that applicants must have a business footprint within the Roanoke-Blacksburg region to receive any monetary award and must stay in the region at least two years after the award. Expanding the region’s biotechnology sector is a continuing focus of its technology advocates.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation collaborated with Roanoke, which provided the grant funding, Carilion Clinic Innovation, Verge (which includes the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council and RAMP) and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Here are company descriptions, from the news release:

Biotechnology company Bacchus Therapeutics exploits some cancers’ tendency to cause accelerated resting metabolism by targeting the way cancer cells generate energy.

Luminary Therapeutics, a clinical stage chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy company, uses a unique platform to manufacture therapy cells for transplants.

Biotech company QurCan Therapeutics has developed a new nanoparticle for safer and tissue-selective drug delivery to sites outside the liver, including the brain and spleen. This would unlock genetic medicine’s full potential, delivering life-changing therapeutics.