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UR Start-Up Companies – Vaccinex, Inc., VirtualScopics, LLC

The University of Rochester’s Office of Technology Transfer plays a critical role in the marketing and licensing of UR technologies. Over the past decade, UR OTT has licensed a variety of UR technologies to a number of entrepreneurs and business owners. Many of these technologies have joined the portfolios of established companies, while others have created the basis for new companies. UR believes in its mission to commercialize products that result from research performed at the Medical Center, the River Campus, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and the Eastman School of Music and strongly encourages the prudent formation of start-up companies based on university technology. UR on average creates 3-5 start-up companies a year, most of which remain in Rochester and contribute to the region’s growing high-tech sectors.

Vaccinex was one of UR’s first start-up companies. Vaccinex was founded in 1997 by Dr. Maurice Zauderer, Ph.D. and Dr. Deepak Sahasrabudhe, M.D., both former researchers at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Dr. Zauderer and Dr. Sahasrabudhe formed Vaccinex around a perfected laboratory technique they’d developed in their lab. The technique was viewed as a significant advancement toward the development of a vaccine to prevent/cure several forms of cancer. The research received $4 million in funding from private investors, which enabled Vaccinex to build and lease a small facility at UR’s Medical Center and continue developing their technology. In 2004, Vaccinex Inc. was awarded a significant U.S. patent for a technology platform that could assist researchers in finding new treatments for cancer and other diseases. A major use of the technology was for the identification of certain proteins, called monoclonal antibodies, which are capable of seeking out and destroying harmful cells. Today, Vaccinex – headquartered on Mt. Hope Avenue – is a clinical-stage biotechnology company engaged in the discovery and development of human therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic vaccines, and other biologic products to treat serious diseases, including cancer, MS, and other autoimmune diseases.

A few years after the creation of Vaccinex came the development of VirtualScopics, a biomedical company centered on research initially undertaken at the University of Rochester Medical Center and School of Engineering in the mid-1990s. VirtualScopics was founded in 2000, by Sara Totterman, M.D., Ph.D., Kevin Parker, Ph.D., Jose Tamez-Pena, Ph.D., and Edward Ashton, Ph.D., a team of past/present UR researchers focused on perfecting a technique for three-dimensional CT/MRI imaging. Together the group developed computer software that could analyze digital information obtained from CT and MRI scans. The software then constructs a 3D image of the scans, rendering a precise picture of what is transpiring inside a patient’s body. This is particularly valuable when considering the shape, size, and exact position of a malignancy within a delicate organ, such as the brain or lung. Today, VirtualScopics’ computer-assisted analysis techniques provide superior precision and reproducibility, enabling faster and more reliable detection of disease progression or therapeutic benefit, accelerating the clinical trial process, and providing a basis for future diagnostic applications. The company’s proprietary software algorithms can process hundreds of separate medical images taken during an MRI or CT session into a single, anatomically accurate three-dimensional model, providing clinical researchers a previously unobtainable source of reproducible data including the characterization of minute changes over time.

Start-ups not only provide a vehicle for commercialization, but also foster a local economic development environment that creates jobs and supports future research. There are currently 30+ companies located in the region that are based, in whole or in part, on University of Rochester technologies. To get involved or to learn more about UR expectations for start-up licenses please visit the OTT homepage or give us a call (585-784-8850)!