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Life Science Incubator Gains $100M in Start-Up Funds

Raven in a tree

Raven (arbyreed, Flickr.

8 Nov. 2023. A new-business accelerator program, begun earlier this year to advance and commercialize biomedical research discoveries from academic labs, is receiving a $100 million founding grant. Blackbird Labs in Baltimore, Maryland is collaborating with life science researchers at local institutions including Johns Hopkins University and Lieber Institute for Brain Development, located on the Johns Hopkins campus, as well as University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Blackbird Labs says it aims to close the gap between research breakthroughs in university labs and the marketplace. The organization says it’s identifying new discoveries with market potential, then connecting researchers with life science industry experts to guide their solutions through further development and business creation. Blackbird plans to reduce risks of further development of these discoveries, encourage public-private partnerships, form start-up companies, and provide early capital.

The group says it will initially support research advances in cancer, neurological and genetic diseases, and inflammation and immune disorders. Blackbird, which formed in Jan. 2023, has already started collaborations on an oral drug for Crohn’s disease and colitis, cell-specific gene therapies, a multi-modal treatment for schizophrenia, and a digital technology to ease clinical trial participation by patients.

“Groundwork for the biotech companies of the future”

“We look forward,” says Blackbird Labs CEO Matt Tremblay in an organization statement released through Cision, “to utilizing our collective expertise in academic translation, company creation, and drug development, and leveraging our academic partnerships to lay the groundwork for the biotech companies of the future.” Tremblay was previously chief operating officer at Scripps Research Institute and Calibr, the institute’s drug discovery division.

The Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation is providing a $100 million start-up grant for Blackbird Labs. Steve Bisciotti is owner of the Baltimore Ravens, the city’s NFL franchise, and the foundation’s address is M&T Stadium where the team plays. In March 2023, the foundation’s translational fund awarded seed grants to researchers at Johns Hopkins University for development of a messenger RNA or mRNA gene-therapy booster to address protein deficiencies, chimeric antigen receptor or CAR T-cell therapies for autoimmune diseases, and a vaccine that invokes T-cell responses in the immune system to protect against a range of coronavirus infections.

Christy Wyskiel, executive director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the university’s technology transfer arm, calls Blackbird Labs, “a unique resource for funding and expertise to help bring Johns Hopkins technologies to market. Its focus on therapeutic assets, one of our strengths, and on Baltimore-based start-ups is well-aligned with our mission.” Wyskiel also advises the university president on innovation and entrepreneurship.

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