(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Cancer research helmed by a Johns Hopkins radiation oncology professor is the first to receive backing from a fund backing work that might create startups.
Marikki Laiho, is receiving funding and support through Bluefield Innovations. Announced in November, Bluefield is a partnership between Johns Hopkins and New York investment firm Deerfield Management.
The $65 million fund is aiming to fund about a dozen research efforts that could show promise toward developing therapeutics over the next five years. It puts money and resources behind the effort to spin out more startups from research at the university. Cancer research is a particular area of expertise for the university.
Laiho, who is Director of the Division of Molecular Radiation Sciences at the JHU School of Medicine, is the first such recipient to be chosen by a steering committee for the fund. Research doing in her lab resulted in a discovery regarding a specific pathway taken by cancer cells in many forms of cancer. The research indicates that interfering with the pathway could kill the cancer cells while doing little harm to normal cells.
“Dr. Laiho’s research may prove to be a transformational cancer treatment,” William Nelson, director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, said in a statement. “We’re excited that Bluefield has provided her an opportunity to accelerate its development and commercialization.”
The amount of funding the specific project is receiving was not disclosed. Along with investment in the early stage research, Deerfield is providing operational support and clinical guidance. Laiho said Bluefield would also help with due diligence required by regulators.
Bluefield is looking to create a therapeutic company based in Baltimore.
“The project will generate additional research and research support jobs locally in Baltimore through Johns Hopkins,” said Dave Greenwald, the director of business development and corporate partnerships at Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures.
If a startup is formed as a result of the early-stage work now being funded, it would be based out of Baltimore, creating the potential for more jobs, Greenwald said.
“For every 1 ‘high tech’ job that JHTV creates, 4.4x ‘non-high tech jobs’ are created in the long-term. We are excited to work with Deerfield on this important project,” he said.-30-
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