RAM SASISEKHARAN, PHD
Co-Founder, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc
"The recent economic crisis highlighted the need for new mechanisms to advance innovation. Maximizing the value of the government-funded critical research conducted academic institutions requires more tools and connections that help our universities and entrepreneurs alike facilitate the kind of research that can spark local industries and drive job growth. Momenta Pharmaceuticals is a clear example of the broader benefit that can result when basic research funding can be translated into real world applications using increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for technology licensing and leveraging connections between area academic and industry leaders."
Ram Sasisekharan, PhD
Ganesh Venkataraman, PhD
$14.6 million FY08
TSC MEMBER INSTITUTION(S):
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
National Institutes of Health
MOMENTA PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.
ABOUT THE COMPANY:
Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was founded in 2001 based on technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the precise sequencing of complex sugar molecules. This original technology platform and the resulting improvements made over the past five years have enabled Momenta to grow from a small, development-stage startup to a public company with more than 175 employees.
Momenta’s technology platform enables the thorough characterization of sugar sequences that are found on human cells and proteins, as well as in complex drugs. Since the configuration and structure of sugars are instrumental to mechanisms of diseases and drug action, the company is able to gain valuable insight into complex biological processes by leveraging its understanding of sugar structure and relating it to activity. Momenta is using its in-depth knowledge of sugars to:
• Develop technology-enabled generic versions of complex drugs that historically have been difficult to duplicate.
UNIVERSITY-BASED RESEARCH CONNECTION:
• Engineer improved versions of currently marketed drugs that contain sugars.
• Create new sugar-based drugs based on the novel biology of sugars.
The initial research into the characterization of sugar molecules was performed by company founders, Ram Sasisekharan, PhD, Professor of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ganesh Venkataraman, PhD, now Momenta Chief Scientific Officer. Sasisekharan, a molecular biologist, collaborated initially with Dr. Robert Langer, an established professor at MIT, to overcome many technical obstacles to create the first heparinase, an enzyme that cuts sugar sequences into smaller components. Dr. Venkataraman then started collaborating with Dr. Sasisekharan, looking at quantitative approaches for capturing the diversity of complex sugars. Ram Sasisekharan serves on the Board of Directors of the company.
ROLE OF FEDERAL RESEARCH FUNDING:
The MIT research received support from the National Institutes of Health.
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