PLSG heavily invests in advanced medical and life sciences technologies

Pittsburgh 21 March 2006Dr. Doros Platika, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG), the private/public partnership putting the region's life sciences industry on a fast track for growth, announced that PLSG has made several investments of $100.000 in companies specialized in medically and life sciences related technologies. The investments, all, except Diamyd, provided under the PLSG's Technology Development Fund (TDF) programme, went to Applied Computational Technologies to aid radiation treatment for cancer therapies; Applied Isotope Technologies Inc. for the development of new technologies for environmental and biological analyses; BlueBelt Technologies to enhance the precision of joint replacement and bone repair; Cohera Medical Inc. for the development of non-toxic "TissueGlu"; Diamyd Inc. for the treatment of chronic pain and neuropathies; NeuroLife to develop non-invasive technology to monitor brain pressure; Proteopure to speed up protein research; and StageMark to help in the diagnosis and monitoring of lupus and auto-immune diseases.

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Applied Computational Technologies LLC develops software that employs a patent-pending Particle Transport Simulation technology that will help improve radiation treatment planning for cancer therapy. The company has developed a product called ProACTive, which is designed to improve radiation oncologists' planning capabilities, leading to better treatment outcomes and reduced side effects.

"More than 1,4 million Americans are likely to be diagnosed this year with some form of cancer, and approximately 65 percent of those will receive some form of radiation therapy", Jay McClatchey, Chief Executive Officer of AppCompTech stated. "AppCompTech's approach adds to the sophistication with which radiation therapies can be applied, improving treatment and recovery rates, and reducing the negative effects of the treatment itself. AppCompTech's progress will be welcome news for cancer patients everywhere."

Applied Isotope Technologies Inc. (AIT) is a Pittsburgh-based firm that is developing a family of proprietary high-value reagents and standards for minute amounts of samples analysed by academic, non-profit and commercial laboratories.

Since its incorporation in 2003, AIT has entirely focused on creation of new technologies, quantitative measurement tools, and related products and services for analyses in environmental, biological markets, and in early cancer detection. The company's products play a critical role in providing significantly improved levels of accuracy, sensitivity and convenience in trace and sub-trace analyses using an important class of analytical instruments called mass spectrometers. Trace compounds are typically measured in nanogram or even lower quantities.

Over the past ten years, Mass Spectrometry (MS) has become the dominant analytical instrument for detection of analytes that must be measured at very small quantities. The ability to identify and accurately measure complex chemical structures by the MS promises to be significant and transformational in several multi-billion dollar industries.

"We are very pleased with our new relationship with PLSG. The TDF investment is earmarked for the development of important new measurement protocols and related standards, reagents and software for human health care. These products will be developed in collaboration with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and used to accurately detect many harmful and sometimes chemo-preventive elemental chemical species, such as selenium in human blood, urine, tissue and hair that are presently impossible to do", stated Matt Pamuku, President and CEO of Applied Isotope Technologies Inc.

PLSG has invested $100.000 in BlueBelt Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based firm working to commercialize a handheld tool to accurately cut bone in joint replacement surgery and other bone repair procedures.

BlueBelt was formed in 2003 to develop devices in computer-assisted surgery and diagnosis and is the exclusive licensee of the patented Precision Freehand Sculptor (PFS) technology. The PFS is an intelligent bone cutting tool which senses the location of tissue to be removed according to a surgical plan. The "smart" device will stop cutting depending on its location and proximity to healthy bone. Initial applications are centred on joint replacement surgery, where a specific shape must be cut in bone in order to fit with a prosthetic implant. The PFS can machine any required shape accurately, all through a small incision.

BlueBelt has also continued development of Image Overlay, a 3D display device used to merge virtual images with the real world. Image Overlay is a generic display technique which spatially aligns virtual 3D images with the user's view of a real scene. In arthroscopic surgery, for example, Image Overlay can allow the surgeon to visualize his tools and the patient's bones inside the skin. Image Overlay essentially gives the surgeon "X-ray" vision. Image Overlay is designed to be easily moved in and out of the operative field.

"The technologies being developed at BlueBelt will enable surgeons to operate with more precision and efficiency, improving outcomes and enhancing patient recovery", stated Craig Markovitz, BlueBelt CEO. BlueBelt is just one recent example of a series of promising new life sciences ventures born on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

Cohera Medical Inc. has developed a non-toxic adhesive called TissueGlu, which is biodegradable and absorbed into the body as surgical wounds heal.

"Cohera Medical Inc. TissueGlu, which is currently in pre-clinical trials, will enhance the healing and recovery process after surgery for the full range of surgical procedures", stated Patrick Daly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cohera Medical Inc. "Cohera is excited to be one of many companies from the Pittsburgh life sciences community ready to establish a strong national and international presence. Our focus is to develop products that doctors will utilize to improve patient outcomes."

PLSG has invested $100.000 in Diamyd Inc. to develop treatments for chronic pain and peripheral neuropathies associated with diabetes. The investment is provided under the PLSG's Pre-Seed Fund programme.

Diamyd Inc., with United States headquarters in Pittsburgh, was formed from the merger of Pittsburgh's Nurel Therapeutics and Diamyd Medical, a publicly traded firm based in Sweden. The company is developing a gene-based therapy that selectively targets neurons for the treatment of chronic pain due to diabetes, spinal cord injuries and cancer. Diamyd Medical is currently engaged in three ongoing clinical trials in Europe using GAD 65, a protein to treat Types 1 and 2 diabetes. The company's development programmes work together to treat diabetes as well as the peripheral nerve pain and nerve damage.

"Chronic pain, especially that which is related to complications from diabetes, is a very common health problem in our society and one that has begged for new treatment options for many years", stated Michael Christini President of Diamyd Inc. USA. "The work Diamyd is doing will provide hope for millions of sufferers of diabetes and other conditions where chronic pain is present. We are very excited about the difference we know that Diamyd will make in peoples' lives in the years ahead."

The Pre-Seed Fund is a competitive funding programme designed to increase the commercialization potential of life science technologies developed by the region's scientists and entrepreneurs. The intent is to provide financial support to increase the likelihood that the company's technology will be successfully commercialized.

NeuroLife Noninvasive Solutions is developing a non-invasive device to accurately monitor brain pressure. The company, which is led by two physicians, Ernest Braxton and Daniel McChesney, is focused on development of a tool that measures intracranial pressure, allowing medical professionals to better diagnose and treat head injured patients at risk for brain damage and death.

"Unlike many other non-invasive medical tests, brain pressure is still measured invasively by boring a hole through the skull and inserting a catheter into the brain, placing head injured patients at risk for brain infections and brain damage", stated Daniel McChesney M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of NeuroLife. "To know this is to understand the advantages and promise of NeuroLife's non-invasive iSCAN technology. The iSCAN device detects elevated brain pressure through the eye using a camera, fiber optics and proprietary software to measure changes in the eye's blood supply."

iSCAN's measurement of the eye's blood supply uses a technique similar to that used by eye doctors to measure the blood pressure of the eye by pressing gently against the eye until the retinal artery collapses temporarily. Because of the close relationship between the eye and the brain, small changes in the eye's blood supply often correlate with brain pressure.

"Through the use of this non-invasive technology, we reduce the risks of possible infection, brain damage, and bleeding associated with invasive procedures", stated Dr. Braxton, NeuroLife's Chief Scientific Officer. "The mortality and disability rate associated with the measurement of brain pressure will likely improve with the application of the iSCAN. We are currently in the prototype phase, and will move into FDA trials in 2007."

Proteopure is a spin-out of and founded by LaunchCyte. Proteopure is developing technology to improve the methodology for isolating and reproducing proteins in medical research. Proteopure is in the emerging field of proteomics, which is the study of complex protein mixtures isolated from cells or bodily fluids. Because every cell type contains its own proteome, composed of a slightly different array of proteins, analysis of these proteins for medical research has long been time-consuming and costly.

"Proteopure is working to relieve bottlenecks in biomedical progress by giving researchers novel protein purification products", stated Rich Ekstrom, Chief Executive Officer of Proteopure. "Our technology is conceptually very simple, but it is different than all of the competitive products and eliminates a major problem for researchers. There has been an unmet need for a universal sample preparation methodology. We believe Proteopure addresses this by providing the first universal method for isolating proteins. This will decrease the time spent on optimizing protein isolation protocols."

The key enabling technology involves a molecule that reversibly binds all proteins. At the heart of the Proteopure 2DE sample preparation Kit is a "spin column", an apparatus that can be used in a standard laboratory centrifuge. The spin column is packed with a resin that binds proteins via interaction with the proprietary protein-capture molecule. Contaminants are washed away while proteins are immobilized on the resin. Initial commercial availability of the product is expected in 2006.

PLSG has invested $100.000 in StageMark, a Pittsburgh-based start-up company that is working to begin commercial development of a technology to help diagnose and monitor lupus and other auto-immune diseases.

StageMark's technology exclusively in-licensed from the University of Pittsburgh and its affiliated Medical Center provides new means to measure a critical pathway involved in a variety of "inflammatory conditions". Initially, the company intents to commercialize its new tests in lupus. The firm utilizes a proprietary test platform called Cell-Bound- Complement Activation Products (CB-CAPs) that has been the subject of extensive clinical studies in lupus. This platform uses state-of the- art cell analysis methods. Pilot studies for other applications are already ongoing.

"Systemic Lupus Erythematosus affects 1,5 million people in the United States and about 5 million individuals around the globe", stated Dr. Bernard Cambou, President and Chief Executive Officer of StageMark. "Through the use of this new technology, combined with the wealth of data from previous clinical research at UPMC, StageMark will get off to a fast start in launching a diagnostic approach in a disease that is in dire need for better diagnostic tests."

The Technology Development Fund is a competitive funding programme designed to increase the commercialization potential of life science technologies developed by the region's scientists and entrepreneurs. The intent is to provide financial support to verify the technical and commercial feasibility of early stage inventions that will accelerate and increase the likelihood that the technology will be successfully commercialized through a regional start-up company. These funds can be used in conjunction with or to leverage other early sources of funding.

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse is a public/private partnership, founded by the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC Health System, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its regional foundation community. Together with private industry and advanced research and health care capabilities of its institutional partners, PLSG invests in and supports the growth of regional life sciences companies in the areas of bioinformatics; bionanotechnology; diagnostics; medical devices; medical robotics; therapeutics; and tools and services.


Leslie Versweyveld

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