A group of researchers from Massachusetts institutions have established a research institute focused on developing new drugs based on targeting every protein in humans, with initial funding of $15 million.

The Institute for Protein Innovation (IPI) said it will work to pursue new therapies for currently intractable diseases by bringing together leaders with backgrounds in academic research, the biopharma industry, and biomedical investing.

IPI has articulated a three-prong mission:

  • Develop and share well-validated monoclonal antibodies targeting every extracellular protein in humans
  • Train scientists from academic and industry labs
  • Create shared core facilities in protein expression, antibody discovery, and biophysical analysis.

Central to that mission, IPI said, will be creating an open-source library of “high-quality” synthetic antibodies that can enable drug discovery research, and may also be usable as therapies.

IPI also articulated a commitment to transparency, saying that it will seek validation by researchers worldwide of antibodies arising from the Institute’s research, and make those antibodies available for analysis and research.

The Institute plans to curate information related to DNA sequence, protein expression, and functional validation of these reagents, including source code, in a publicly-accessible web portal, with the goal of accelerating the development of new drugs and supporting existing large-scale research efforts, citing the Human Cell Atlas.

“Despite their pivotal importance in research and medicine, proteins lag behind DNA and RNA in institutional research support and funding,” IPI founder Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D., said in a statement.

“The IPI fills this gap, providing intellectual capital from academia to empower protein research and pioneer new therapeutics that improve human health,” added Dr. Springer, who is the Latham Family Professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Springer’s lab studies receptor-ligand interactions and signal transmission across membranes. He co-founded IPI with Andrew C. Kruse, Ph.D., assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.  

IPI’s initial $15 million in funding includes a $10 million foundational gift from Dr. Springer, and a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency tasked with implementing the Commonwealth's 10-year, $1-billion Life Sciences Initiative. IPI plans to add to that funding with additional philanthropy, research grant support, and research collaborations with biopharmas.

For its first year of operations, IPI will be housed at Harvard Medical School. The Institute plans to secure long-term lab and office space in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area later this year.

IPI expects to create up to 10 permanent jobs during its first year, with plans to grow that workforce to 19 or 20 positions by 2022. The Institute said it will recruit researchers focused on directed evolution, cell-line development, and biophysical protein characterization, in addition to glycoprotein expression and antibody discovery expertise.

“Bringing our ever-expanding knowledge in proteomics closer to therapeutics is essential,” added George Q. Daley, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the faculty of medicine with Harvard Medical School. “This collaboration is a powerful illustration of the fruitful cross-pollination that occurs when academia, the public and private sectors, philanthropy, and biotech come together.”

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