In March 2017, the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, will open its new Center for Science Entrepreneurship. The completion of the $3 million facility marks a major milestone in the history of the 119-year-old institution, reflecting its 21st century focus on pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine and creating a global hub for biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship.
Regenerative medicine is revolutionizing 21st century health care. Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory are leading this revolution through their focus on identifying the innate mechanisms that allow tissues to regenerate after damage. Using this knowledge, they are developing drugs that activate these innate mechanisms in order to restore the function of tissues and organs that have been damaged or lost to disease, injury and aging.
The new center also reflects the institution’s commitment to accelerating innovation and modernizing Maine’s economy through the creation of a life sciences commercialization ecosystem to incubate and attract new companies.
The MDI Biological Laboratory has a long and vigorous record of educating Maine students and professionals – and those from around the world – in the life sciences. In recent years, these offerings have increasingly focused on innovation- and entrepreneurship-based learning in recognition of the fact that science has to go hand-in-hand with training in these areas if discovery is to be translated into enterprises that improve health and create 21st century jobs.
Unique Research Approach
Referred to as the “vanguard of 21st century healthcare” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regenerative medicine is revolutionizing how we think about and treat disease. While the vast majority of research in this field is focused on developing stem cell, gene and tissue engineering therapies, these approaches have not yet delivered on their promise despite nearly two decades of research. The MDI Biological Laboratory approaches regenerative medicine differently by asking, “What if restoring the function of damaged tissue could be accomplished simply by taking a drug?”
MDI Biological Laboratory scientists are focused on the discovery and development of small molecules that activate the body’s innate ability to repair damaged tissue. This approach is founded on their extensive expertise in regenerative biology, the study of diverse regenerative animal models, genomics, big data analytics, integrative physiology, comparative and evolutionary biology, computational modeling and drug development. They are defining the gene regulatory networks and signaling pathways underlying heart, nerve and limb regeneration, wound healing, immune responses to injury, stem cell function and the loss of regenerative capacity with age.
It takes audacity to pursue unconventional approaches in regenerative medicine. But scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory believe that solving the mysteries of regeneration is the key to preventing and curing countless diseases, to restoring function after traumatic injury and to slowing or reversing the degenerative changes that occur with age.
This approach – asking big questions, bringing new perspectives to problem-solving and using unconventional research models – works. In just three years and with minimal financial investment, MDI Biological Laboratory scientists have identified three drug candidates. The lead candidate, MSI-1436, stimulates heart muscle regeneration, improves heart function and increases survival following heart attack in animal models. The institution is seeking to move these drugs into the clinic through a spin-off, Novo Biosciences. MSI-1436 has already been found to be well tolerated by humans in Phase 1a and 1b clinical testing for an unrelated application.
The drug candidate has a huge potential market: cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading killer, taking the lives of 17.5 million people annually worldwide and disabling millions more.
Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory have also identified two drug candidates for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, a painful, disabling condition that affects at least 20 million Americans. In severe cases, patients may have to terminate chemotherapy prematurely, depriving them of the full benefits of treatment and possibly jeopardizing their lives. The MDI Biological Laboratory is also seeking to move these drugs into the clinic.