Harvard's Wyss launches Opsonix, backed by Baxter in $8M round to get sepsis device into clinic

Blood-cleansing device--Courtesy of the Wyss Institute

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has launched startup Opsonix to develop its pathogen-extracting, extracorporeal sepsis device. Hansjörg Wyss, who founded the institute with a $125 million gift in 2008, also participated in an $8 million Series A round that was led by Baxter Ventures.

That money is earmarked to wrap up preclinical studies and move the blood-cleansing tool into clinical development. Opsonix has a worldwide exclusive licensing agreement with Harvard's Office of Technology Development for the device, which has already been supported with more than $22 million for preclinical development from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as part of its dialysis-like therapeutic program.

"Opsonix's pathogen-extracting therapy provides a novel therapeutic solution leveraging the broad binding activities of a natural human protein that may rapidly remove sepsis-causing pathogens--and the toxins they release--from a patient's blood," said Opsonix founder and CEO Eric Devroe in a statement. "With our FcMBL-based pathogen-extracting therapy, treatment of blood-borne infectious disease can be initiated earlier in the course of infection, when it is most needed, without having to wait to identify the disease-causing pathogen."

The device works by binding pathogens to a proprietary protein, a recombinant human protein derived from mannose binding lectin (MBL) fused to the Fc region of human immunoglobulin (FcMBL). That protein is attached to the membrane of a dialyzer-like device and can remove a broad range of bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses and toxins that are involved in sepsis, including antibiotic-resistant organisms. The device is intended to work in synergy with conventional antibiotic treatments.

More than 1 million cases of pathogen-induced sepsis occur in the U.S. annually, more than 30% of which result in fatalities. There is no approved therapy specifically to treat sepsis, and the standard of care typically consists simply of broad-spectrum antibiotics that may not stop disease progression, particularly in the case of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"We are developing an entirely new approach to treat sepsis that directly and quickly eliminates the pathogens and toxins that trigger the sepsis cascade," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Dr. Don Ingber. "Even more importantly, we can accomplish this without having to first identify the infectious agent."

- here are the Opsonix and Wyss announcements

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