Biopharm Startup Partners With International Pharmaceutical Firms

Published January 16, 2018

Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD

Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD

University at Buffalo spinoff POP Biotechnologies Inc. (POP BIO) ended 2017 on a high note with a flurry of activity, including reaching research agreements with two international pharmaceutical companies.

Fledgling Company Developed Vaccine Adjuvant

The Buffalo-based, biopharmaceutical startup also signed a manufacturing contract with a regional drug development firm and moved into a new space at the UB Technology Incubator at Baird Research Park.

The company has developed a vaccine adjuvant called SNAP, an acronym for Spontaneous Nanoliposome-Antigen Particleization. Adjuvants are immunological agents, often used to enhance the efficacy of vaccines and drug treatments.

Seek to Produce Vaccines for Life-Threatening Diseases

The technology forms the basis for the research with the international pharmaceutical companies.

“Essentially, it can make existing vaccines’ responses more powerful and longer-lasting, and open the door to creating vaccines for diseases that so far have evaded a vaccination,” says Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, whose lab developed the technology that POP BIO is advancing.

Lovell is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“If successful, our collaboration with our international partners will produce vaccines for life-threatening diseases which currently have no vaccine,” says Jonathan Smyth, POP BIO’s chief administrative officer and a graduate of the UB School of Law.

“Additionally, this work will validate our adjuvant technology in preclinical studies and open an avenue for clinical codevelopment deals.”

Developing Light-Based Chemotherapy Treatment

POP BIO is also working on commercializing a light-based chemotherapy treatment — also developed in Lovell’s lab — that kills cancer cells while causing only limited harm to the tissue around them.

Previously, the company won the 2015 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, which was created by the UB School of Management and UB’s economic development offices.

It also attracted the interest of America Online co-founder Steve Case, who along with local investors awarded POP BIO $100,000 in 2015 during Case’s Rise of the Rest business plan contest.

Multitude of Local Startup Programs Aided Venture

“It’s challenging to start a new life sciences company. But with the support of local startup programs like Panasci, UB Incubators and Launch NY, companies like POP BIO are finding success in Buffalo,” Smyth says.

Besides Lovell and Smyth, an additional POP BIO co-founder is Kevin Carter, a doctoral candidate in Lovell’s lab.