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  • Bijan Harandi

Tufts' Biotech Offspring

Words such as “Entrepreneurship” and “Venture Capital” have been seldom uttered and discussed at Tufts, a liberal arts institution not exactly known for its production of startups. Fortunately, that perspective is changing. With the growth of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center, recently awarded several multimillion-dollar gifts (1, 2) and the continued growth of programs such as the Masters in Innovation Management (MSIM) program, more startups are popping up at Tufts every year. Speaking to the biotechnology side of these Jumbo-founded startups, are three notable companies, specializing in data collection, medical information systems, and injection technology respectively.


Artwork by Ava Sakamoto


Lura Health, founded by Noah Hill, Daniel Weinstein, and Saam Bozorg in 2017, has made a name for itself in the realm of dental medicine and technology. Starting out their company originally as “UChu Biosensors” is developing dental sensors that can provide status reports to one’s oral health through analyzing saliva content, such as pH, Glucose levels, and the quantities of other elements and chemicals (3). This technology works by providing small retainers and aligners that possess smar bands and brackets which collect this data, allowing it to be witnessed by both you through a mobile device and for a dentist or doctor to analyze more thoroughly. The goal is that this product will be able to prevent chronic oral diseases. With this product in development, Lura Health initially received around $20,000 from the Tufts Gordon Institute in support funding, and more recently a $256,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the proposed technology. For these efforts, many of the cofounders have been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and in Boston Inno 25 Under 25 (4, 5). While Lura Health leverages both biotechnology and software, many health based startups at Tufts have taken a pure software approach, such as Tellescope.


Tellescope, founded originally in 2020 as “Immuto” has built a software platform that they refer to as “The Patient Management Platform for Digital Health." Seeing an issue with the messy systems involved at health institutions revolving around health professionals, patients, and whomever else in involved with a health organization, the founders Sebastian Coates, a Tufts Alum, and Derek Straus have built Tellescope. Overall, Tellescope allow for one centralized and easy-to-use system for all matters at a healthcare organization, so that individuals such as patients, physicians, and other specialists can easily communicate and access data. A result of the 2020 Tufts Venture Accelerator, this company has evolved from an idea to a full platform given its support from the Accelerator and induction in the 2020 UnitedHealthCare Techstars Accelerator, one of the most prestigious accelerators for healthcare-based startups in the world (6). It’s founders, both with degrees based in mathematics and computer science, have showcased that a solid background of biology is not completely necessary to make innovations in the world of healthcare.


Lastly is Anodyne Nanotech, a Tufts-spinout preclinical-stage biotech company formed in 2018 by now-graduated Gordon Institute MSIM students Jake Lombardo and Konstantinos Tzortzakis. Anodyne Nanotech is developing a patented porous microneedle technology designed to deliver doses of therapeutics efficiently and economically to patients. This technology is able to deliver large quantities of these therapeutics that would be injected in inconvenient and painful manners. Coined “Hero Patch”, this technology is meant to change the market in terms of how physicians administer invasive medicines to patients (7). So far, the company has received a financial award from the Baker-Polito Administration9 and recently closed a $4.2 seed investment from number venture capital firms and partners for further development and commercialization of the technology (8).


Speaking to Elaine Chen, the Director of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center, and Cummings Family Professor of the Practice in Entrepreneurship on the state of biotechnology entrepreneurship at Tufts, she states that “Tufts alumni are extremely innovative and entrepreneurial. There are many ventures that are funded or have an exit event every year– it’s just that we don’t always hear about it”. Professor Chen believes that the key to a thriving entrepreneurship environment is the alumni community and expresses that “The Tufts alumni community has really come together in the past two years. The Tufts Entrepreneurial Network (TEN), the entrepreneurial alumni group at Tufts, organized many virtual events during the pandemic and engagement is terrific now that we are back in person, with four events coming up in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Palo Alto in May and June alone”. Seeing the successes present on biotechnology side, Tufts is seemingly on an uphill path when it comes to producing impactful research-based companies.


 
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