Two R.I. biomed firms highlight need for federal research funding

Two Rhode Island biomedical companies featured in a new report by The Science Coalition released Tuesday highlight the role of federal research funding in strengthening innovation, creating new jobs and bolstering the economy. More

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Two R.I. biomed firms highlight need for federal research funding

NABSYS AND TIVORSAN PHARMACEUTICALS, both based in Providence, are two of the companies featured in The Science Coalition's new report on the economic impact of federal research funding. The founders of Nabsys and Tivorsan both built on federally funded research at Brown University.
Posted 10/29/13

PROVIDENCE – Two Rhode Island biomedical companies featured in a new report by The Science Coalition released Tuesday highlight the role of federal research funding in strengthening innovation, creating new jobs and bolstering the economy.

With 2013 funding levels at historic lows – and federal sequestration expected to cut an additional $95 billion from federal research and development budgets through 2021 – the report warns that the trend over the last decade of national disinvestment in science poses a real threat to innovation and economic growth in the U.S.

“If America wants to maintain its innovative edge, create meaningful jobs and realize economic growth, then we must ensure that funding for scientific research is prioritized, even in times of cost-cutting,” said Science Coalition President Tim Leshan in a release. “While research is only a small portion of the overall federal budget, the results are huge: discoveries with profound implications for our health, safety and quality of life; training for future generations of scientists, doctors and teachers; and innovations that give birth to new technologies, companies and industries.”

The report, titled “Sparking Economic Growth 2.0,” identifies 100 U.S. companies that trace their roots to federally funded university research and underlines the role that this funding played in each company’s ultimate success.

Two of the companies featured in the report are Nabsys Inc. and Tivorsan Pharmaceuticals, both based in Providence and founded by researchers at Brown University whose research received federally funding.

Nabsys, a developer of high-speed DNA sequencing technology, was founded in 2004 by Xinsheng Sean Ling, a professor of physics at Brown University. The Nabsys platform builds on Ling’s research, combining solid-state nanodetectors with innovations in chemistry to reveal both location and identity of DNA sequences over long distances.

The initial research and development was undertaken at Brown University with a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and since then Nabsys – led by President and CEO Dr. Barrett Bready – has grown to a 47-employee private company that has raised $21 million in venture financing since 2009.

Tivorsan Pharmaceuticals is a protein therapeutics company developing treatment methods for neuromuscular disorders. Tivorsan’s method has its roots in 24 years of basic research in the Fallon Laboratory at Brown University, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Justin Fallon, a Brown professor, was the primary inventor of the recombinant human biglycan technology that became the basis for the treatment.

In 2008, Fallon founded Tivorsan in collaboration with colleagues from Old Forge Holdings LLC of Greenwich, Conn., and LifeTech Research Inc., a Baltimore-based technology research and development firm. Tivorsan now employs 6 people at its headquarters in Providence.

“Innovation is a cornerstone of American progress, improving our lives in countless ways and providing jobs and economic growth,” said Rebecca Blank, University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor and former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the report. “America’s future economic prosperity depends on increased investments in research and education that will accelerate innovation and inspire future generations of scientists.”

The estimated total investment in the university research behind the success of the companies in the Science Coalition report was approximately $330 million – a relatively small sum compared with the cost of the problems such research aims to address, such as cancer, which costs the U.S. economy $552 million every day, or cybercrime, which costs about $384 million a day, the report stated.

The Science Coalition is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose members include more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities. For more information, visit www.sciencecoalition.org.

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