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  • 27 Oct 2021 10:25 AM | Anonymous

    UAB Biotech Startup, Reliant Glycosciences, Enables Treatment for IgA Nephropathy

    Birmingham, AL / October 2021– Reliant Glycosciences, LLC (Reliant) is pleased to report its successful completion of a $200,000 Phase I SBIR Grant from the NIH. This grant has enabled Reliant to initiate the process of translating their proprietary biomarker tests for a kidney disease, IgA nephropathy (IgAN), to the clinical setting. Biomarkers are biological molecules in blood or tissues that can indicate normal or abnormal processes or a specific disease. Since its spin-off from UAB at the recommendation of Dr. Selwyn Vickers, Dean of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, Reliant’s initial focus has been to provide measurements of potential disease-specific biomarkers for ongoing IgAN clinical trials.

    The Reliant team

    Reliant was formed in 2016 with the mission of enabling development of transformative and targeted treatments for IgAN by providing a means to characterize disease-specific biomarkers. The biotechnology company, located in Birmingham, AL, focuses on developing diagnostic and prognostic tools for patients with IgAN. IgAN, one of the most common forms of glomerulonephritis in the world, affects more than 150,000 Americans and is even more prevalent in other countries. Glomerulonephritides are diseases that injure glomeruli, the part of the kidney that filters waste products from the blood. Several of the Reliant founders helped define IgAN as an autoimmune disease wherein kidneys are injured as innocent bystanders.

    The company was founded by Drs. Bruce Julian, Jan Novak, Matt Renfrow, Will Placzek, and Dana Risk as a spinout company from UAB. The founders serve on the advisory board for the company. The company has taken advantage of the Discovery BioMed incubator headed by Dr. Erik Schwiebert, an established biotech entrepreneur in the Birmingham area. The company now has one full-time scientist and one full-time administrative employee. Janusz Tucholski, Ph.D. is the Lead Scientist at Reliant and served as the PI on the Phase I SBIR grant. He received his Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland in Biochemistry. Dr. Tucholski guides and leads IgAN biomarker assays for Reliant. Tatum Street, MBA is the Communications Manager at Reliant. She received her MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is the team’s most recent hire, focusing on the internal and external communications of the company.

    As stated by one of the founders, Matt Renfrow, “Reliant Glycosciences started with the goal of getting the IgA nephropathy biomarker assays developed in Dr. Novak’s laboratory out to the market for wider use. The UAB Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship helped us make that happen through the licensing agreement and by becoming partners with us in the endeavor. We have a working team of experts, advisors, and scientists in the company that have successfully made these assays available for use by biopharmaceutical companies. The ultimate goal is to get these assays into nephrologists’ hands so they can monitor and better treat patients with IgA nephropathy.”

    To learn more about Reliant Glycosciences, see their website at

    https://www.reliantglycosciences.com/

    Written by: Tatum Street

    Updated 11/17/21

  • 2 Sep 2021 3:19 PM | Anonymous

    BIO Alabama submitted the following letter to Governor Ivey, highlighting the tremendous work of our members in COVID-19 relief efforts.


    Dear Governor Ivey,

    As concern grows over the advances of the Delta variant COVID strain, we wanted to share the tremendous contributions Alabamians in our bioscience industry have made in this urgent fight. We live in a state that literally took man to the moon, and innovation is in our core, dating back to the agricultural technologies Dr. George Washington Carver developed at Tuskegee University. Now, our state’s bioscience community is assisting our neighbors, the US, and the rest of the world to curb this powerful pandemic’s destructive path by studying the virus, developing vaccines, and discovering new tools and treatments.

    • Avanti Polar Lipids (part of Croda International plc) utilized its Lipid Nanoparticle technology to enable the rapid clinical development of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Avanti was the first company to supply clinical and commercial quantities of this critical lipid technology that enables the targeted release of the mRNA vaccine to muscle tissue.
    • Moderna selected the vial produced by SiO2 Materials Science for its unique composition and manufacturing process. SiO2 increased vial production in 4 months to levels that would have taken 18-24 months for traditional vials. Without Avanti’s and SiO2’s technology and manufacturing capacity, many more lives may have been lost to the virus.
    • Data from a powerful artificial intelligence program developed at the Precision Medicine Institute of the University of Alabama at Birmingham resulted in the first dose-sparing cocktail of remdesivir, the only approved treatment for COVID.
    • At Auburn University, teams developed biosensors for rapid COVID-19 testing and reengineered standard CPAP machines into functional emergency ventilators.
    • The University of South Alabama collaborated with partners to repurpose their 3D printing capabilities to produce PPE for local healthcare workers.
    • The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s powerful sequencing technology tracked the shift in COVID variants, noting the predominance of the Delta variant by June 2021.
    • The University of Alabama spearheaded a vaccination equity campaign, focusing on the Black Belt, which currently leads the state in vaccination status.
    • The University of Alabama at Huntsville collaborated with partners, including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Alabama Supercomputer Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to identify anti-COVID-19 chemicals and drug candidates.
    • CFD Research is developing a new class of COVID-19 drugs with the Defense Health Agency. 
    • Southern Research has conducted >$30 million of COVID-related research, using high-throughput screening to refine treatments, co-create vaccines, and develop assays for variant detection.

    As we continue to wage war against this unrelenting virus, we must celebrate the meaningful innovations Alabama is making so that we can emerge on the other side with confidence in each other and strength together. Governor Ivey, please share these major contributions with your staff and other elected officials so that we can appreciate the united contributions of our fellow Alabamians.

    Sincerely,

    Rachel Lane, PhD, RD

    Executive Director, BIO Alabama


  • 13 Aug 2021 10:04 AM | Anonymous

    Dr. Lane penned a few thoughts on Alabama's bioscience industry and the role of BIO Alabama in growing it.

    https://www.thisisalabama.org/2021/08/10/how-bioscience-could-become-alabamas-next-big-industry/

  • 26 Jul 2021 10:01 AM | Anonymous

    Sam Prickett chatted with BIO AL executive director Rachel Lane PhD, RD about BIO Alabama.

    https://www.thisisalabama.org/2021/07/26/new-trade-association-advances-alabamas-biotechnology-sector/

  • 15 Jul 2021 9:56 AM | Anonymous

    BIO Alabama in Mobile

    July 12-13

    BIO Alabama executive director – Dr. Rachel Lane – wrapped up her listening campaign in mid-July with a visit to Mobile. The beauty and comradery of the city was evident, from the exquisitely landscaped campus of the University of South Alabama to the warm embraces shared by all members of the BIO AL roundtable.

    Left to right | Ashely Lindsey (BIO AL Mobile Ambassador), Michelle Parvinrouh (Executive Director of Innovation Portal), and Rachel Lane (Executive Director of BIO AL) at the Innovation Portal celebrate the Mobile spirit of making good things happen.

    Michael Berson of Adams and Reese LLP generously hosted Dr. Lane’s visit with key community leaders: Anitra Belle-Henderson (Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs at City of Mobile), Michael Chambers (Associate Vice President for Research at the University of South Alabama), Todd Greer (Vice President For Academic Affairs at the University of Mobile), Ashley Lindsey (Assistant Professor of Biology and the University of Mobile and BIO Alabama Ambassador), Michelle Parvinrouh (Executive Director at Innovation Portal), and Christina Stimpson (Director of Economic Development at Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce). Notably, this was the only meeting on Dr. Lane’s listening campaign to host a female majority. After the roundtable, Dr. Lane toured the incredible facilities at Innovation Portal. She was also excited to learn that both the University of South Alabama and the University of Mobile have implemented NSF I-Corps programs, a tremendous tool for exploring the commercial potential of scientific discoveries.

    According to 2018 workforce data published in the 2020 Bioscience Teconomy report, Mobile is a key player in Alabama’s life science workforce.  Alabama has a specialized workforce in Agricultural Feedstock and Industrial Biosciences, meaning that compared with the national average, the state has a significantly greater job concentration for this industry subsector. Mobile is the largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in AL to host a specialized workforce, and the only MSA in the state to land on a “top twenty” list, tailing Madison, WI for total number of employees in this industry subsector. Business Facilities – a key voice in the site selection marketplace – recently recognized Mobile as one of the top five best business environments (population <200,000) in the US, highlighting the distinct potential of this singular city to support bioscience growth. Mobile’s academic R&D capabilities, manufacturing specialty, innovation support, and favorable business environment create a unique microcosm with immense bioscience potential.

    The roundtable offered helpful insight into how these exceptional features of Mobile’s bioscience industry could fit into the state’s bioeconomy. Leaders expressed sincere interest in uniting Alabama’s bioscience presence and identifying a clear strategy for positioning the state for industry success.


  • 6 Jul 2021 3:06 PM | Anonymous

    BIO Alabama Visits Tuscaloosa

    June 28-29th

    Executive director Rachel Lane visited Tuscaloosa in late June, where she found supportive bioscience allies and enthusiastic innovators on and off campus. The trip kicked off with an engaging conversation at the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority with Executive Director Danielle Winningham and Director of Business Development Max Snyder about building Tuscaloosa’s bioeconomy. Tuscaloosa has successfully supported the automobile manufacturing industry and is interested in exploring potential crossover opportunities that support bioscience.

    Dr. Lane talks with UA faculty about the state of bioscience in Alabama.

    Dan Blakley, Associate Vice President for Economic and Business Engagement at The University of Alabama, hosted Dr. Lane’s campus visit at the University of Alabama. From the first conversation, UA’s concerted effort to strategically lower barriers and pave multiple paths to industry engagement was evident. The Office of Research and Economic Development leadership team recently altered their tech transfer processes to streamline contract engagements, encourage industry partnerships, and promote innovation. Dr. Sharlene Newman – Executive Director of the Alabama Life Research Institute – is cultivating valuable industry research partnerships, including an engagement with CVS. The Alabama Water Institute's agenda also typifies UA's deep-rooted appreciation for the natural resources that sustain life and their commitment to solving the challenges of the future before they become the problems of the present. Ravi Kumar, PhD -- the university's latest faculty recruit -- has developed a novel drug delivery platform with the potential to promote collaborations across the state and nation.

    Drs. Lane, Newman, M. Thompson (Assistant Professor of Chemistry), J. Cochran (Associate Dean for Research at the University of Alabama), J. Bara (Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering), R. Kumar (College of Community Health) and N. Chiem (Office of Innovation and Commercialization) engaged in a lively discussion about the state of bioscience at UA and around the state. They were joined by Dana George, Business Engagement and Research Operations Manager at The University of Alabama, who runs the Mobile office and facilitates industry partnerships.

    “Across all my site visits, people are so excited to gather in person again. All the conversations have been fully engaged, future focused, and collaboration centered. It’s energizing to see our members connect in meaningful ways to build the future together,” observed Dr. Lane after their discussion.

    The executive agenda has clearly influenced the student and startup population. The UA graduate students that met with Dr. Lane were especially interested in learning about industry opportunities around the state, and several resident companies at The EDGE – the university’s incubator and accelerator – are navigating bio-based innovations. The Alabama International Trade Center (AITC) continues to be an incredible resource for bioscience companies statewide, helping establish their initial commercial presence. In the last five years, Carolyn Turner and Brian Davis have provided over fifty Alabama biotech companies with no-cost, in-depth technical assistance on overseas market opportunities.Dr. Lane wrapped up her Tuscaloosa trip with a brief stop by Representative Bill Poole’s home office and thanked him for supporting innovation in Alabama with HB 609.



    *NEW OFFERING | The AITC recently began offering graphic design services to clients 



  • 25 Jun 2021 10:15 AM | Anonymous

    Wallace State Community College Hosts BIO Alabama

    June 25

    Wallace State Community College Campus

    State Community Colleges are Critical to the Bioscience industry

    Three days before Dr. Lane’s trip to Wallace State Community College (WSCC), the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes released the 2021 Life Sciences Workforce Trends Report

    Figure after figure, the report reinforces the essential role of two-year colleges in training the life science workforce. More than 50% of entry-level life science jobs require middle- and low-skill training (defined by the study as less than a bachelor’s degree) (Figure 1), and 25% of all life-science job postings – regardless of level – specify the need for an associate degree or less (Figure 2).

    “Medical technician” (Figure 3), a position with multiple entry points supported by community college education, was the technical life science job in highest demand from 2017-2020.

    The Role of WSCC in Alabama's bioscience workforce

    WSCC’s contribution to training and diversifying AL’s life science workforce is obvious, graduating >50 medical technicians and training numerous agriculture professionals each year, as well as creating onramps for underserved populations (evidenced by their recent NSF award to train women and adult learners in the diesel industry). In 2022, WSCC will be rolling out a business incubator, equipped with 8 pods capable of supporting light manufacturing operations. This combination of essential training with entrepreneurial support encourages application-centered innovation.

    WSCC medical laboratory technician students in training and a WSCC greenhouse

    Travis Kress – who manages his own family farm in Cullman – also runs the Small Farmer Training Program at WSCC. He explained that the average Alabama farmer is nearing 60 years of age, and our state also has more new ag producers than the national average. Dr. Lane speculates that the next generation of farmers may usher in a new mentality toward technology and farming that could make Alabama an especially welcoming state for agbio innovators to call home.

    WSCC’s commitment to workforce diversity and innovation is a key partner in Alabama’s future. Special thanks to Suzanne Harbin, Wesley Rakestraw, Travis Kress, Kristi Barnett, and Beth Williams for sharing this time and insight with Dr. Lane during her visit.



  • 16 Jun 2021 4:41 PM | Anonymous

    Auburn Hosts BIO Alabama

    June 2-3

    Dr. Lane’s “Listening Campaign” around Alabama continued in June with a visit to Auburn. As a Texas native, she immediately felt at ease in the Alabama plains and was surprised to learn the Atlanta airport is only 1.5 hours away from the charmingly bustling town. Bill Dean – Executive Director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation (aka “The Park”) – hosted Dr. Lane at The Park’s state-of-the-art facilities.

    Graduate students from the Department of Biology kicked off Dr. Lane’s visit with a casual conversation about how BIO AL can support their career development: their interests spanned from policy, to academia, to industry. Dr. Lane discussed the depth of career opportunities in Alabama following graduation. As a result of their conversation, BIO Alabama plans to organize virtual soft-skill professional development opportunities and industry introductions for grad students across the state.

    ARTF Executive Director Bill Dean (right), BIO AL Executive Director Rachel Lane (middle), and Senior Technology Transfer Officer Troy Brady (left) discuss Mr. Dean's plans to streamline tech transfer.

    Bill Dean and Cary Chandler - Senior Director of Business Development & Startups – shared their thoughtful design of The Park’s campus and resources to connect, support, and fuel innovators. Dr. Lane was impressed to learn that the campus includes the Big Blue Marble Academy. “Campus-accessible childcare helps working parents stay engaged in their careers, supporting a diverse workforce that includes more representative perspectives and experiences” she noted. Mr. Dean's unique skillset and expertise in creating innovation-conducive environments was evident in his insightful plan to bridge gaps in the innovation pathway and facilitate tech transfer.

    Next, Rick Hansen, Kimberly Braxton, and Gary Piazza from the Harrison School of Pharmacy shared their work. Dr. Lane was especially excited to learn more about Dr. Braxton’s study with the “TigerMeds® Personalized Prescriptions” program. The program uses individualized pharmacogenomic results to optimize patient prescriptions for tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), SSRI or SSNRI antidepressants, ADHD medications, antiplatelet medications, and antiestrogen medications.

    Dr. Symone Alexander from the College of Engineering explains her work

    The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering proved to be refreshingly focused on industry application, including novel MRI contrast agents, and showcased several of their energetic new faculty. College of Agriculture Chair David Held spotlighted the department’s recently introduced Applied Biotechnology degree, and Professor Brendan Higgins reiterated that many of their students “want to stay in the south.” VP for Research and Economic Development Jim Weyhenmeyer discussed cultural shifts in academic research that could promote a transition from predominately market-pull to market-push innovations. The College of Veterinary Medicine unveiled a vault of stories where they successfully applied developments in animal medicine to human biology. At the end of the day, Dr. Lane toured The Park’s accelerator space with Cary Chandler and then the Center for Advanced Science, Innovation, and Commerce across the street with Dr. Mark Liles.  

    Representative Jeremy Gray and Dr. Rachel Lane

    Dr. Lane did diversify her time in Auburn. She met with Representative Jeremey Gray to thank him for co-sponsoring HB 609, which was signed by Governor Ivey in May and provides state matching funds for companies awarded federal SBIR/STTR dollars. On her way out of town, Dr. Lane stopped by Vitruvias Therapeutics to visit with President Roger Graben.

    Despite the packed schedule, Dr. Lane left unfinished business in Auburn and hopes to return for a visit with SiO2 and Pharmavite - among other companies - soon.

  • 14 Jun 2021 9:38 AM | Anonymous

    BIO Alabama in Birmingham

    May 26-27

    BIO Alabama's new executive director - Rachel Lane, PhD, RD - is hitting the road this summer, with trips planned to all five hubs in the state. At the end of May, Dr. Lane began her travels with a two-day trip to Birmingham. Advancing Sight Network was the first stop, where Dr. Greg Grossman and Kyle Mavin showed off their thoughtfully designed facility. Dr. Lane marveled at the complex beauty of organ donation. 

    A transplant-ready cornea at Advancing Sight Network 

    "The most memorable moment for me was seeing a cornea in transition between the donor and recipient. It was amazing to think that just yesterday, that cornea had seen one life close but its work would continue beyond the first soul that brought it into the world. All that past and future fit into a 50-milliliter container."

      Leverett Powell and the Agile Biodetection crew then toured Dr. Lane around their spacious laboratory and offered several constructive suggestions on how to streamline the biotech startup process, based on their recent experience.

      Agile Biodetection crew from left to right | Leverett Powell, Kanti K. Sunkavalli, and Elizabeth Rayburn

      From there, Dr. Lane drove a few miles down the road to meet board member Jay Daly for a tour around Evonik's expansive campus, where she learned about their PLGA*-based therapeutic innovations. She then joined Chair Blair King (Alabama Power), Chair-Elect Kacee Sims (Avanti Polar Lipids), and past Chair-Elect Amy Sturdivant (58 INC) for dinner and discussion about building the AL bioeconomy.

      The next morning, CerFlux Founder Dr. Karim Budhwani met Dr. Lane for breakfast. They swapped ideas about various entrepreneurial support resources for life science startups, such as the I-Corps programs and Alabama Launchpad competition. 

        Dr. Karim Budhwani of CerFlux and Dr. Lane

        Dr. Lane then met 2022 Conference Chair Alex Cate (HudsonAlpha) and Birmingham-based members of the committee to tour the conference site: the Grand Bohemian Hotel. All members were impressed with the facility, and ideas for an exciting program began to percolate, including an executive dinner, patient-physician-innovator panels, and unique networking opportunities. From there, Dr. Lane headed to the Innovation Depot to meet with resident companies TriAltus, In8bio, ResBiotic, AI Metrics, and Amesino. They discussed how BIO AL could help facilitate tech transfer processes and support early-stage startups.

        Dr. Lane ended her day after meeting with Vulcan Gray, First Avenue Ventures, and Southern Research. "The best part of the trip was realizing I've barely scratched the surface. There are so many more life science companies and institutions to visit in Birmingham. I can't wait to come back," said Dr. Lane.

        *poly (D,L-lactide-co-glycolide)

      • 17 May 2021 1:14 PM | Anonymous

        HR3 attempts to address some of the challenges facing healthcare costs by limiting drug prices. BIO AL's Executive Director sent the following letter to Alabama's congressional representatives and senators. 

        I’m writing on behalf of BIO Alabama to express our concerns about HR3 and the impact it would have on innovation and on the future development of life-saving medical treatments. Reference pricing would have a negative impact on patients and on our bioscience industry in Alabama.

        The timing of this proposal is particularly ironic considering what the past year has shown us about the value of innovation and a robust bioscience industry. We have all seen first-hand the benefits of having an industry that was positioned and ready to respond to a novel and deadly coronavirus. But the importance of this industry is no less vital to those diagnosed with diseases that have been causing deaths and disability for many years.

        As our national partners at BIO have said of HR3:

        “This proposal, as a de-facto price control measure, would handicap future medical innovation – including for future pandemics – and destroy hope for millions of patients living with diseases for which no cures or viable treatments currently exist. As a recent study made clear, patients would have had access to significantly fewer new medicines to treat rare diseases and cancer, as two examples, had reference pricing proposals been enacted over the last decade. Moreover, the proposal would have triggered hundreds of thousands of job losses across the country."

        Like BIO at the national level, BIO Alabama is deeply concerned about this legislation. We remain committed to working with you on patient-centered reforms to improve access to medications and treatments without putting our industry — and more importantly, the next generation of cures — at risk.

        As a scientist, I understand the tremendous resources required to create and safely introduce new treatments, diagnostics, and medical instruments to healthcare. In my role as Founder of The Written Science, I spent years working with early-stage innovators, fueled by their zeal and hope for better medicine in the future. I experienced the challenges of healthcare access and pricing abuse in my clinical career. The challenges facing healthcare are complex and multifaceted, but HR3 is not a satisfactory solution and will create more holes in patient treatment than it fills. 

        If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

        - Rachel Lane PhD, RD

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