Tufts Scientists Receive Grants from Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The funds for capital investment will support research ranging from drug delivery to disease detection technologies at the university

Three Tufts scientists and their teams have received capital funding this month from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) to support research ranging from drug delivery to disease detection technologies.

The grants were part of a total of $18 million to 14 recipients from the state agency, which seeks to advance life sciences research and development and innovation in the Commonwealth.

At Cummings School, the funds will help purchase essential equipment for the state-of-the-art comparative pathology and genomics core “that will advance the utility and application of infectious disease models,” said Cheryl London, V90, associate dean for research and graduate education at Cummings School and Anne Engen and Dusty Professor in Comparative Oncology.

The funds are part of the research infrastructure grants offered by the MLSC. “When fully operational, this resource will offer advanced capacities for credentialling and analyzing animal models of disease using digital spatial profiling and associated global transcriptomics/proteomics as well as tissue cyclic immunofluorescence,” said London.

“These capacities will help to grow collaborative opportunities among regional academic and industry entities; provide training opportunities for students, fellows, scientists and clinicians; and ultimately support job growth through expansion of the research enterprise in central Massachusetts,” she added.

Sameer Sonkusale, a School of Engineering professor and director of the Nano Lab, received funds as part of the MLSC Novel Therapeutics Delivery program for his work on microneedles, which would lower the cost—and the pain—of injections.

The unique design and formulation of the microneedles for drug delivery needs state-of-the-art equipment, funded by the grant, to understand what the body does to the drug and what the drug does to the body, Sonkusale said.

“The capital equipment will kickstart research and development efforts in innovative drug delivery platforms and support the innovation ecosystems within Tufts and in the state of Massachusetts,” he said. The capital equipment will support advanced imaging tools and mass spectrometry.

Sonkusale is working with industry partner Anodyne Nanotech on development of the microneedles. Jake Lombardo, co-founder and CEO of Anodyne and 2019 graduate of the MSIM program at Tufts Gordon Institute, said that the grant “allows Anodyne, as an industry supporter, access to high quality capital equipment that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for a startup to acquire.”

As part of the MLSC’s Bits to Bytes program, Igor Sokolov, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, received a grant for a project aiming to develop noninvasive detection of bladder cancer through advanced nanoscale imaging and machine learning analysis, along with industry partner Cellens.

“I am thrilled to receive the ‘Bits to Bytes’ award,” said Sokolov. “The areas of possible applications of our new data are extremely broad, from detection of various diseases, screening the efficiency of drugs, and personalized medicine up to deepening our understanding of operational principles of biological cells.”

Sokolov expects that the collaboration with Cellens “will lay the strategic groundwork for further advancement of data science and technology for medical applications of nanotechnology in Massachusetts.”

“We are truly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Tufts University to develop novel and highly accurate approaches to detect cancer, with a goal of improving the quality of patients’ lives,” said Jean Pham, co-founder and CEO of Cellens and a 2021 graduate of the Tufts Gordon Institute MSIM program.

The MLSC is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts. Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, education, research and development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device, diagnostics, and digital health.

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