Friday, March 16, 2012

VCU Researchers Discover Cancer Killing Compound

New compound discovered that rapidly kills liver cancer

March 13, 2012

Scientists have identified a new compound that rapidly kills hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells, the most common form of liver cancer and fifth most common cancer worldwide, while sparing healthy tissue. The compound, Factor Qunolinone Inhibitor 1 (FQI1), works by inhibiting an oncogene originally discovered by a team of researchers led by Devanand Sarkar, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., Harrison Scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center, Blick Scholar and assistant professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and member of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine at VCU School of Medicine.

Recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study demonstrates that HCC cells have what is known as an "oncogene addiction" to the transcription factor Late SV40 Factor (LSF). Oncogene addiction is a term used when a cancer cell is found to be dependent on a single gene to survive. Using the compound Factor Qunolinone Inhibitor 1 (FQI1), the scientists prevented LSF from binding to HCC DNA during the transcription process, which is the first step in a series of actions that lead to cell division and duplication. This action caused rapid HCC cell death in laboratory experiments and a dramatic reduction in tumor growth in mouse models with no observable toxicity to normal liver cells.

"We may be on the verge of developing a new, effective drug for liver cancer," says Sarkar. "In the last 2-3 years, my laboratory demonstrated the role of LSF in liver cancer and my collaborators at Boston University screened over 110,000 compounds to identify the ones that inhibit LSF function. FQI1 was identified as one of a class of effective compounds, but we never anticipated it would work this well."

Sarkar discovered LSF's role in liver cancer in 2010 when he demonstrated significantly higher LSF levels in HCC patients in comparison to healthy individuals, and showed that inhibition of LSF reduced the progression of HCC in laboratory experiments. This finding led to the collaboration between VCU and Boston University that resulted in the discovery of FQI1.

Now that FQI1 has been identified, pharmacokinetic studies are being conducted to determine how the drug behaves in the human body. Once the scientists have determined how the drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized and eliminated from the body, they will work with clinicians to translate their findings into phase I clinical trials in patients with liver cancer.

"We have proven this compound is effective and nontoxic in living animals," says Sarkar. "While we won't know how FQI1 reacts in humans until the first clinical trial, we are very excited by our findings and hope they lead to a new drug for a disease that is currently very difficult to treat."

The lead investigators on this study were Trevor J. Grant and Joshua Bishop, Ph.D., from Boston University. In addition to Grant and Bishop, Sarkar collaborated with Ayesha Siddiq, Ph.D., Rachel Gredler and Xue-Ning Shen, M.D., from VCU School of Medicine; Jennifer Sherman and Kevin Fitzgerald, Ph.D., from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Sriharsa Pradhan, Ph.D., from New England Biolabs, Inc.; Laura A. Briggs, Ph.D., and William H. Andrews, Ph.D., from Sierra Sciences, LLC; and Lisa Christadore, Girish Barot, Ph.D., Hang Gyeong Chin, Sarah Woodson, John Kavouris, Tracy Meehan, Scott E. Schaus, Ph.D., and Ulla Hansen, Ph.D., from Boston University.

The full manuscript is available online at:

Link is here.

Friday, March 09, 2012

WBJ: CIT "GAP" Fund May Face Budget Cut

Here is today's story by Bill Flook about the Virginia House and Senate budgets and how CIT's early stage equity fund may fare...

The state nonprofit fund that supports Virginia tech companies is facing steep cuts from the General Assembly, setting up a potentially jarring financial reduction after a banner year.
The House and Senate have cut Gov. Bob McDonnell’s funding proposal for the Herndon-based Center for Innovative Technology and its GAP Funds program, though the budget has yet to be finalized.
The CIT GAP Funds is in the middle of a record stretch. Since July, the group has doled out funds to more than 20 startups — topping any year since its 2005 founding. About half of those deals closed since the beginning of this year. That’s in large part due to record funding. This fiscal year, the group has had $6 million at its disposal: $4 million in state appropriations and $2 million in stimulus cash from the Department of Energy.
Officials with the Center for Innovative Technology, a state-funded nonprofit, aren’t expecting another infusion from the federal government, which was always seen as a one-time funding source. But spending proposals by both the Virginia House and Senate are also threatening to shrink the perennial state dollars upon which CIT depends, returning it to the fiscal uncertainty that has long plagued the group. When CIT won its record $6 million in funding, for example, it was coming off a year in which it had only $500,000 to invest.
“We have a huge pent-up demand for these funds,” said Hap Connors, CIT’s vice president of government and public affairs. “We’re hearing from the marketplace, industry and universities both, that they need a reliable source of funding from these programs, or else it will lose credibility and they won’t participate.”
CIT GAP Funds’ recent deals include:
○ Norfolk-based financial software startup Harbinger Technology Solutions LLC.
○ McLean-based solar-powered water heater company Sunnovations Inc.
○ McLean-based professional networking site Brazen Careerist Inc.
○, an Oakton-based social network.
○ Charlottesville-based drug developer Xdynia LLC.
○ Distil Inc., a cloud security company based in Falls Church.
○ Bristol-based WireTough Cylinders LLC, which makes lightweight natural gas tanks.
The fund typically parcels out investments as large as $100,000 when investing alone, or as much as $500,000 when joining with other angels or venture funds.
That growth in check writing has elevated CIT’s profile among a cash-hungry local startup community, as well as fellow seed investors. Jonathon Perrelli of D.C.-based Fortify Ventures LLC, which has co-invested with CIT, calls the team “talented” and “active.”
The question now is how active the group will be in the coming two years after it deploys the rest of its $4 million appropriation by the end of the fiscal year in June.
McDonnell proposed in his two-year budget to keep CIT’s funding level at $4 million for both fiscal 2013 and 2014, but both the House and Senate have taken their own, more tight-fisted route.
The two-year spending plan put forth by the GOP-controlled House would put about $3 million for each of the next two years into CIT Gap Funds.
The Senate’s plan is more complicated. It would grant $4 million to the fund in fiscal 2013 but eliminate funding in the second year.
That could change, however, depending on whether the $1.2 trillion in automatic federal budget cuts are triggered in 2013.
Leaders from each chamber are locked in a stalemate over the budget, which must be approved by March 10 to prevent legislative overtime.
There is no guarantee that the final budget will look anything like the versions approved by the House or Senate.
“Based on reports we got from the General Assembly, we are optimistic of having a healthy fund from which to invest in the upcoming year,” said Tom Weithman, managing director of CIT GAP Funds.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Breaking: NC Joins Mid-Atlantic Bio as Strategic Partner

Exciting news today from RTP!

The Mid-Atlantic Bio conference today announced that the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has joined the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VABIO), Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), and Mid-Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA) as a 2012 strategic partner. The addition of North Carolina to the Mid-Atlantic Bio geography solidifies the conference’s position as the leading regional life-sciences event. Expected to attract more than 1000 attendees from industry, government, academia, the investment community and the media, Mid-Atlantic Bio is 2012’s can’t miss event. Mid-Atlantic Bio will be held on September 27-28 at the North Bethesda Marriott and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

In announcing their partnership, Norris Tolson, President & CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, said, “The Mid-Atlantic region and its portfolio of federal government, emerging company and investment sector assets holds great potential for the life sciences. North Carolina, which has fostered unprecedented growth through three decades of attention to biotechnology, is delighted to join forces to promote the continued expansion of the sector and strength of the region.”

Bioscience industry leaders from North Carolina’s Research Triangle will join senior executives from more than 200 companies, 50 investment funds and researchers from the Mid-Atlantic region’s top academic institutions.

“Mid-Atlantic Bio is an important expression of the vitality of the biotechnology community in the mid-Atlantic region,” said H. Thomas Watkins, President and CEO, Human Genome Sciences, and Chair of the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board. “We look forward to expanding regional participation to include North Carolina, and we expect this year’s meeting to provide evidence of a gradually improving economic outlook in the life sciences sector.”

With the addition of North Carolina to the existing collaboration between Maryland and Virginia, Mid-Atlantic Bio 2012 will expand the critical mass of innovators and entrepreneurs that make it a destination for investors.

According to David Mott, General Partner, NEA and former CEO of MedImmune, “As investors, we’re about ROI. From our perspective, a larger event, one that draws attendance from leading industry clusters and centers of excellence – both in and outside this region’s footprint – as well as offers unparalleled access to policymakers in Washington, is a unique and valuable conference platform. The 2012 Mid-Atlantic Bio is well positioned to provide key insights for investors as to the pulse of the industry – from policy to pipelines. This means more VCs, more investment opportunities, more high value attendees from the private and public sectors, more media, and more clarity as to what’s going on in Washington. In other words, this is where business from Maryland to North Carolina will get done.”

“If you are searching for business development and investment prospects in today’s resource constrained world, you are going to prioritize where the greatest opportunities are. That’s Mid-Atlantic Bio. It’s the biotech combine and our members will have their scouts there,” said Julia Spicer, Executive Director, MAVA, which represents 500+ venture and private equity investment professionals with cumulatively more than $90 billion under management.

“Mid-Atlantic Bio has long been a dynamic event thanks in large part to our strategic proximity to key stakeholders from NIH, FDA, NSF, CMS and the U.S. Congress here in our backyard. Now, with the addition of North Carolina, this event will engage an even broader constituency comprising one of the largest bioscience regions in the nation in terms of innovation and commercial output,” said Art Jacoby, Interim CEO, Tech Council of Maryland.

The multiplier effect of North Carolina’s participation cannot be overstated. “This partnership represents a rare platform to bring together influential stakeholders for the benefit of our companies and the industry as a whole,” said Mark A. Herzog, Executive Director, VABIO, on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Bio Coalition. “Having already offered world-class collaboration, best practices exchange and networking opportunities in the past, North Carolina is the catalyst which will propel Mid-Atlantic Bio, its sponsors and attendees, into the national spotlight.”

Located at the epicenter of biotech R&D, capital and policy, the combined Mid-Atlantic Bio region represents one of the largest industry clusters in the nation in terms of number of companies, size of workforce, funding, innovation, clinical trials and commercial opportunities.

For more information visit

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

8 New Bioscience Jobs Posted on VABIO Career Center

Here are eight new life science jobs available in Virginia! Please share with colleagues:

Mass Spec Lab Technologist (3rd Shift)
Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. - Richmond, VA
This key team member will be responsible for performing LCMSMS, GCFID, electrophoresis or other advanced technological testing on patient specimens. Essential Functions/ Responsibilities (other duties may be assigned): The Mass Spectrometry Laboratory Technologist is responsible for performing moderate and high complexity testing with strict adherence to regulatory requirements. All of the duties and responsibilities will be performed according to laboratory guidelines and procedures.

Molecular Lab Technologist (3rd Shift)
Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. - Richmond, VA
The Laboratory Technologist in the Molecular Genetics department, is responsible for performing moderate and high complexity testing with strict adherence to regulatory requirements. All of the duties and responsibilities are performed according to laboratory guidelines and procedures.

Research Associate
Ceres Nanosciences, Inc. - MANASSAS, VA
Ceres is currently searching for a Research Associate to join our expanding Research and Product Development Team. The Research Associate will perform advanced lab procedures, collect/process/analyze biological fluids (and develop assays), write/amend/implement SOPs and perform tasks to support our current customers. The research associate will contribute to the development of biological sample collection and preparation tools from concept to commercialization.

Senior Scientist
Novozymes Biologicals, Inc. - Salem, VA
We are seeking an energetic, results-oriented Senior Scientist to join our R&D team, to investigate the use of microorganisms for feed and agricultural applications. Activities include developing research plans, isolating and identifying microorganisms, developing laboratory assays to screen for desired properties, and developing methods and techniques for tracking presence and effectiveness of microorganisms in use.

Senior Web & Intranet Content Editor
Janelia Farm Research Campus - Ashburn, VA
Do you desire to work on a cutting edge, non-traditional website that is visually engaging and interactive? This not your usual corporate website. Working at our Janelia campus, interested candidates can expect to join forces with bright, passionate, committed staff and some of the rock stars of the scientific community. An ideal candidate thinks outside-of-the-box by developing strategies to continue evolving the site to best meet the need of its customers, and taking the site to the next level

Special Chemistry Lab Technologist (2nd & 3rd Shift)
Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. - Richmond, VA
As a Laboratory Technologist you will be responsible for performing moderate and high complexity testing with strict adherence to regulatory requirements. All of the duties and responsibilities will be performed according to laboratory guidelines and procedures.

Technical Specialist
Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc. - Richmond, VA
This key team player will support the laboratory with technical instrumentation and assay expertise by facilitating the purchase, acquisition, programming, operation, training and troubleshooting of laboratory instruments. This individual may also assist with managing the daily operation of the laboratory.

Medical Sales Territory Manager - Nationwide
Milliken Healthcare Products, LLC - Various US Locations, SC
The Account Manager role is responsible for aggressively defending and rapidly expanding a specific geographic region by driving new business development. This role will be responsible for protecting current business, prospecting new opportunities, delivering intense customer support along with industry networking and education as well as meeting bold year over year business growth objectives. This role reports to the National Sales Manager.

View more jobs at the VABIO Career Center

Thursday, March 01, 2012

New Biopharma Coalition Launched in Virginia


Former State Senator Edd Houck, Virginia Chamber of Commerce
President & CEO Barry DuVal & Virginia BIO Executive Director
Mark Herzog to Co-Chair Effort Highlighting Biopharmaceutical Industry’s
Contributions to Virginia’s Economy and to the Health of Virginians

Feb. 29, 2012; Richmond – Former Virginia State Senator Edd Houck, Virginia Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Barry DuVal, and Virginia Biotechnology Association Executive Director Mark Herzog announced the formation of the We Work for Health Virginia coalition this morning in Richmond. This coalition will highlight the important contributions that the biopharmaceutical sector makes to the Commonwealth’s economy and to the health of Virginians.

(from the left: former Senator Edd Houck, Mark Herzog and Barry DuVal)

We Work for Health is a grassroots initiative that unites health consumers, biopharmaceutical company employees and retirees, vendors, suppliers and other business, academic and community partners to demonstrate how these diverse groups work together to improve Virginia’s health care system and strengthen our economy.

Active in 11 other states, including North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware, this coalition will highlight the important role that the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry plays to help citizens gain and maintain access to life-saving medicines, fight chronic disease and lead longer, healthier lives. The value of this industry, however, extends beyond the mission of improving health—the sector is also critical to the health of the state economy.

As a vital economic partner, biopharmaceutical companies create and deliver significant benefits to their local communities. By creating high-paying jobs, providing growth opportunities for related industries, fostering higher education in science and math and generating tax revenue, Virginia’s biopharmaceutical companies create a strong foundation from which we can rebuild and grow our state economy—providing stability, and prosperity into the future.

Speaking about this new coalition’s work in Virginia, Senator Houck remarked, "During my 28 year career serving in the General Assembly, no issue was more important to me than working with the biopharmaceutical industry and health advocacy groups to promote wellness initiatives and to ensure that Virginians had access to affordable and quality medications. In the coming months, we will tell the stories of the senior who takes medication to improve their quality of life, the manufacturer who goes to the plant making important drugs every day right here in Virginia, the patient who is overcoming mental illness with the help of prescription medication, and those Virginia small businesses who depend on a thriving biopharmaceutical sector."

Virginia Biotechnology Association executive director Mark Herzog added, "This is an important effort that will showcase the vital work the bioscience and technology sector does here in Virginia. Last week, Governor McDonnell named 2012 as the "Year of the Entrepreneur" which is fitting as we are the home to a thriving bioscience industry, first-class research institutions and a strong workforce. We Work for Health is another vehicle to reinforce our commitment to the life sciences community and the important work that they do to keep Virginians healthy."

Virginia Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Barry DuVal noted, "I am proud to be associated with We Work for Health. A recent economic impact study conducted showed that Virginia biopharmaceutical companies support more than 76,000 jobs in Virginia and invest $1.5 billion in research and development for clinical trials to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, various cancers, Diabetes Mellitus, and mental and behavioral disorders. We are excited to share the message with federal and state policymakers."

Michele Shuman, Lupus Foundation DC/MD/VA Chapter, remarked, "26 years ago when I was a mother of two small children, I was diagnosed with lupus following a recluse spider bite. I volunteer my time and talents fighting to raise awareness because lupus has ruled my life for the last quarter century, and I believe that by speaking out we can get just one step closer to finding a drug that can make a difference. As a patient who is currently taking 27 different medications every day to fight my symptoms, this cause is very personal for me. LFA has benefitted by joining the We Work for Health coalition in other states and I'm pleased we're launching this coalition in Virginia today."

Members who have joined We Work for Health Virginia include: Virginia Biotechnology Association, Lupus Foundation of America DC/MD/VA Chapter, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Neurofibromatosis Mid-Atlantic Chapter and Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic. We Work for Health Virginia will be announcing additional partners in the coming weeks and months.

To learn more, visit or the We Work for Health Virginia page.

To join the coalition, click here for a sign-up form.

Additional news stories:

NBC 29:

Washington Post: