Harvard researchers hope to bridge the protein gap with new institute

Timothy Springer just unveiled the new Institute for Protein Innovation (IPI), aiming to bridge the gap in studying protein therapeutics. Springer, known for having a guiding hand in biotechs like Moderna Therapeutics and Editas, kicked in $10 million from his own pocket alongside a grant of $5 million from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

While the institute will be housed for one year within the Harvard Medical School, it will be an independent entity, collaborating with academics and industry alike to advance protein science, which co-founder and assistant professor Andrew Kruse explained to Endpoints News is “the bridge between the genomics discovery, discovery of a given target for instance and the actual development of a therapeutic targeting a particular protein.”

Timothy Springer

“Despite their pivotal importance in research and medicine, proteins lag behind DNA and RNA in institutional research support and funding. The IPI fills this gap, providing intellectual capital from academia to empower protein research and pioneer new therapies that improve human health,” said Springer in a press release.

The institute has several goals for advancing protein research, including training new scientists to be experts in the field, but one of the initial achievements will be building an open-source library of high-quality synthetic antibodies. All of the sequences as well as validations for the proteins the team works with will be freely available to the public.

Andrew Kruse

Going forward, the team hopes to benefit from varied collaborations with academics, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industry, forming partnerships and sponsored research agreements in addition to seeking continued grant funding. The company will function completely independently and will have full control over its intellectual property, which it hopes will be the basis of spinouts.

Kruse explained that Springer’s gift was integral to forming the institute.

“People have said for a long time ‘someone should do this’ and the challenge has really been in finding someone that is interested in actually supporting it.” Luckily, Springer was that person. “Having someone like Tim, who’s actually from a science background and recognizes the need … but also has the financial wherewithal to make that happen is really critical.”

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