Cornell University has recently created the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences and announced the center’s first occupant, Cornell’s native Glycobia Inc. According to INDY, the center makes its home on Ithaca’s campus in Weill Hall and was founded to help promising Cornell life science companies created by inventors at the university’s four campuses to develop their technologies, improve their businesses, and prepare them for substantial investment to help them grow. The center will work with regional, state and national leaders to help startups advance their businesses in a way where they will have important effects on the economy and the field of life sciences.
Glycobia Inc. is a company still in its growing stages that focuses on engineering common bacteria to produce human peptide, protein and antibody drugs. The company was chosen as the McGovern Center’s first occupying client and began its work on campus on January 16. Established by Mathew DeLisa, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell University, Glycobia Inc. focuses on using engineered bacteria to aid the production of human therapeutic glycoproteins, which are becoming more and more popular as drugs used to treat a broad spectrum of conditions, including cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Center Director Lou Walcer
Photo Courtesy of Robert Barker/Cornell
Glycobia Inc. produces inexpensive “glycoengineering” technology, unique in that it alters such common bacteria as E. coli to immediately create human peptide, protein and antibody drugs at a low cost. Usually, protein-based drugs are produced by using mammalian cell cultures, but this technique is expensive and takes a long time.
“We can make these drugs better,” said Adam Fisher, chief science officer of Glycobia Inc. and a previous Cornell graduate student who helped come up with the vision for a completely new way to produce human drugs. “We can do things that are simply not possible in any other existing or emerging technology platform.”
Robert Buhrman, senior vice provost for research at Cornell University, said that there are a number of challenges present in preparing the McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences for business. Fostering a favorable environment for a tax-exempt research institution like Cornell University to sponsor the growth of for-profit companies relying on federal and investor funds, and developing them into companies that will have a major influence on the region’s economy, is “not easy to do,” according to Buhrman.
The Center Occupies Cornell's Weill Hall
Photo Courtesy of Cornell Chronicle
The McGovern Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences was initially created through a $7.5 million donation by the McGovern Family, whose members include Kevin McGovern, a Cornell University graduate of 1970, his wife, Lisa, and their children, Cornell University graduates Jarrett and Ashley. Cornell’s Research Division and NYSTAR’s Biotechnology Institute at Cornell fund the McGovern Center. With the center open for business, Cornell University’s sponsorship of clients’ significant life sciences projects will have a great impact on the region’s economy and development in the field of life sciences.
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