Two Einstein Research Teams Secure Funding from Venture Capital

Einstein Snagged Two of Five XSeed Awards in Competitive Round

April 27, 2021—(BRONX, NY)—Two teams of  scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have secured $100,000 XSeed Awards—part of a new program supporting early-stage life-science projects that have startup potential. The funding comes from the Deerfield Management Company, a healthcare investment firm that is coordinating with local government agencies to promote life sciences in New York City.

Jonathan R. Lai, Ph.D.

Jonathan R. Lai, Ph.D.

“Einstein is well-known for the excellence of its basic science research enterprise, but our ultimate purpose is to improve human health,” said Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein. “To ensure that our basic science is optimally positioned to improve human health, we’ve been accelerating efforts to further develop and translate our lab findings into clinical diagnostics and treatments. The fact that our faculty are so well represented among the winners of this competitive award speaks volumes about our recent efforts.”

Recipients of the $100,000 XSeed Awards are:

  • Jonathan Lai, Ph.D., for his work on alphavirus-associated arthritis, a debilitating musculoskeletal condition that can persist for years after infection. Dr. Lai has developed a monoclonal antibody treatment for people infected with Chikungunya and related alphaviruses that cause the disease. Outbreaks have affected millions of people in more than 40 countries along the equator, and species of Aedes mosquitoes that spread these viruses are now also circulating in the southern United States. The two Chikungunya vaccines in clinical trials are limited to preventing infection, and there are no approved treatments for these alphaviruses.
  • Andras Fiser, Ph.D., John Blanchard, Ph.D., Simone Sidoli, Ph.D., and Johanna Daily, M.D., M.S., for their work in rapidly identifying drugs that work against Klebsiella pneumoniae, which has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. These bacteria cause pneumonia as well as bloodstream infections, surgical-site infections, and meningitis, and are fatal 20% of the time. For patients with highly resistant infections, there are few therapeutic options. Using mass spectrometry, the Einstein scientists have developed a technology to identify new combinations of antibiotics that will be effective, and this approach may allow personalized treatment for each patient’s infection within 24 hours to reduce the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
From left: Andras Fiser, Ph.D., John Blanchard, Ph.D., Simone Sidoli, Ph.D., and Johanna Daily, M.D., M.S.
From left: Andras Fiser, Ph.D., John Blanchard, Ph.D., Simone Sidoli, Ph.D., and Johanna Daily, M.D., M.S.

In addition to receiving award funding, the winning teams will join a two-year cohort of their fellow awardees. The teams will be provided with peer-learning and office hours with leading investors, entrepreneurs, and business experts. Through the XSeed Award cohort, it is anticipated that these researchers will bolster their network and their research programs will receive increased visibility. Graduates of each cohort are expected to in turn serve as mentors and coaches for future cohorts, further strengthening the entrepreneurial community in New York City.

Janis Paradiso, M.B.A., C.L.P.
Janis Paradiso, M.B.A., C.L.P.

“The number of entrepreneurially-minded faculty at Einstein has been growing steadily in recent years and it’s great that a new funding stream has opened up to support them,” said Janis Paradiso, M.B.A., C.L.P., director of the office of biotechnology and business development, whose office worked with several of the teams who submitted applications for the award. “We look forward to working with these teams, as well as our other scientists and inventors, to identify licensing and commercial opportunities that help them move their discoveries from the lab into clinical applications that benefit the public.”

The XSeed Award was created by Deerfield as a result of the partnership announced in September 2019 between New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Deerfield to develop the Cure life science campus, a 12-story campus to bring together innovators from academia, government, industry, and the not-for-profit sectors under one roof to advance human health and accelerate the fight against disease. The Cure campus is part of LifeSci NYC, a $500 million commitment to establish New York City as a global leader in the life sciences.

The winning Einstein teams were announced earlier this month and a public presentation took place on April 21 at the Cure campus with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and leadership from Deerfield and NYCEDC.