Exterior of the CTSC building
By Melanie M. Hazlett

CTSC BioVenture Partnership Highlights Researchers and Biotech Companies

University of New Mexico Health Sciences researchers showcased innovations with the potential to transform health care at the third BioVenture Partnership Event, conducted via Zoom on Wednesday, May 19.

Sponsored by the UNM Clinical & Translational Science Center (CTSC) and the ASCEND Accelerator Hub, the online event drew more than 100 researchers, local life sciences companies and investors.

The event “brings the academic and business communities together with a focus on learning about promising medical discoveries, biomedical technologies and resources that are helping grow the state’s bioscience sector and impacting health care in New Mexico,” said Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and director of the CTSC, which oversaw the organization and funding for the event.

Eric Prossnitz, PhD, a professor in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine and the CTSC faculty member who led planning for the event, said it was a success, even though it was conducted virtually.

From left to right; Eric Prossnitz, PhD, Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, and Karin Westlund, PhD
From left to right, Eric Prossnitz, PhD, planner of the event, Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, Director of the CTSC, and Karin Westlund High, PhD, proposal winner


“BioVenture is about networking and learning,” Prossnitz said. “Researchers and trainees participating in the event gain experience crafting a compelling message, balancing highly scientific concepts with their strategy for a product value proposition. To communicate these elements in a few minutes and win a favorable decision from investors is not an easy task.”

Three UNM investigators were selected to pitch their health care-focused innovations during the event.

  • Karin Westlund High, PhD, a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine, presented Therapeutic Antibody Fragments as Non-Opioid Pain Relief
  • Tione Buranda, PhD, an associate professor with the Department of Pathology, presented G-Trap: A Real-Time Clinical Decision Support Tool for Sepsis Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Alexander Hafez, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with assistant professor Nikolaus Mellios, PhD, in the Department of Neurosciences, presented Circular Genomics, A Company Founded on RNA-Based Assays for Disease Diagnosis and Treatment Efficacy Assessment


Eric Prossnitz, PhD

BioVenture is about networking and learning. Researchers and trainees participating in the event gain experience crafting a compelling message, balancing highly scientific concepts with their strategy for a product value proposition

Eric Prossnitz, PhD

A three-judge panel selected Westlund High’s innovative proposal as the winner. She and her collaborators hope to develop non-opioid therapies to treat chronic pain using small protein, brain penetrant, single chain Fragment variable (scFv) antibody therapies. These have the potential to reverse chronic neuropathic pain, associated pain-related behaviors and depression.

BioVenture Partnership participants gained real-world experience attracting investor support, refining presentation skills and garnering critical feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their innovations and pitches.

Westlund High also received a BioVenture gift bag from event sponsors Albuquerque Isotopes, Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico Natural History Museum, and UNM Anderson School of Management.

The event also featured guest speakers, poster presentations and a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition.

Ashim Subedee, PhD, academic innovation lead at the National Institutes of Health Small Business Education and Entrepreneurial Development Office, provided information to help support academic innovation and early-stage product development.

Kathy Foster, program manager for ASCEND, an NIH-funded program to stimulate the transition of biomedical discoveries from the lab into commercial products, presented resources for entrepreneurs and Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer preparation.

Arlene Young, director of commercialization at UNM Rainforest Innovations, discussed a variety of commercialization topics including invention disclosures, patent applications, and licensing.

Categories: Health, Research, Top Stories