The Venture Development Center (VDC) at UMass Boston welcomes SQZ Biotech (SQZ), a company founded by MIT colleagues Robert Langer, Klavs Jensen, Armon Sharei and Agustin Lopez Marquez.
SQZ contacted the VDC in July 2014 as they were ready to expand their internal R&D efforts. SQZ waited until January 2015 until space became available at the VDC.
“The VDC seems like a great launch point for SQZ,” Armon said. “We are all definitely very excited about getting into our own space and being together as a company,” added Jonathan Gilbert, a former MIT researcher and currently the VP of Business Development of SQZ.
SQZ’s employees had been scattered in different locations around Boston, including at MassChallenge. The company won the grand prize from the startup accelerator’s 2014 competition.
SQZ has high hopes for its technology, which was named one of 2014’s 10 world-changing ideas by Scientific American. Several potentially transformative treatments for diseases face a common obstacle—effectively getting materials into primary cells, which are very hard to manipulate.
SQZ’s microfluidic device can get microscopic material into cells quickly and cheaply by vigorously squeezing those cells and temporarily making their membranes permeable.
It might be just what’s needed in a type of treatment that’s just starting to take off, called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves modifying a person’s immune cells to effectively target diseases such as cancer.
SQZ’s devices are currently being used by a number of researchers, and the company is in the early stages of testing it for use with experimental treatments.