With less than a week until Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, we’re taking a look at a different meeting of elites. We’re not talking about Peyton Manning, and we’re certainly not talking about Russell Wilson. Instead, we’re focusing our attention on the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, which took place last week in Davos, Switzerland and brought together the likes of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Managing Director of International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, and PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi.
With the Annual Meeting’s conclusion last week, we revisited the World Economic Forum’s announcement of their latest class of 36 Technology Pioneers, startups chosen for their “potential to transform the future of business and society.” These companies join the ranks of past startups such as Google (2001), 23&Me (2008), and Dropbox (2012). The 2014 selection committee, reads like a list of “who’s who” of innovation leaders from around the world. Among the industry leaders chosen were Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, and serial entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg. MIT’s Robert Langer, John Hopkins’ Jennifer Elisseeff, and Caltech’s Julia Greer were a few of the academic names who made the list.
While innovation, leadership, and potential for growth were common to all of the companies recognized, we observed an unanticipated feature of this year’s group: nine of the thirty-six Global Technology Pioneers were based in Massachusetts. Of those nine, five were Life Science and Health companies. As a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, we couldn’t be more excited by this strong showing!
Technology Pioneers have traditionally been a driver of technology trends and disruptive products, and the number of companies on the list that call Massachusetts home is a promising sign that the state – and more specifically, Boston – is a global innovation hub with a strong cluster of companies across industries. Below is a look at the Boston-based companies recognized as Technology Pioneers:
Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Agios is working on a novel cancer treatment that targets the enzymes cancer cells use to metabolize the nutrients they need to survive. Agios determines which cancers depend on specific enzymes using genetic and metabolic tumor profiles. Agios is also developing treatments for “inborn errors of metabolism,” which prevent the production of specific enzymes and can be fatal.
Bind Therapeutics Inc.
Current cancer treatments often involve killing healthy cells in addition to cancer targets and are accompanied by serious side effects. BIND designs Accurins, nanoparticles that specifically bind to target cells and avoid the healthy ones. Accurins can deliver cancer treatments to the desired cells at a strategically-programmed rate, ensuring that the drugs have an optimal effect on their target.
bluebird bio produces gene therapy products that rely on lentiviral vectors to deliver functional genes in stem cells of patients with genetic diseases. bluebird’s approach aims to genetically modify the patient’s cells to correct the underlying cause of disease and has the potential to be used for a range of diseases with genetic origins.
Foundation Medicine Inc.
Foundation Medicine provides a single test that provides suggestions for treatment by analyzing genomic profiles for cancer. The launching test takes into consideration 236 cancer genes and has been ordered by more than 1,500 physicians from 25 countries since 2012.
Selecta Biosciences Inc.
Selecta produces synthetic nanoparticles that boost the immune system’s response much faster than traditional vaccines and train the immune system to reduce its response to specific triggers. Selecta’s current vaccines against malaria and cancer are currently being developed, and a nicotine addiction vaccine being tested in human trials.
In addition to the above companies in the Life Science and Health category, a few other disruptive technology companies who made the list are also based in Massachusetts:
- Jana offers companies an alternative to traditional advertising: the chance to add airtime onto prepaid mobile phones in return for engagement – which includes actions such as filling out a survey or trying a product.
- Oasys Water provides clean water using less energy using principles of osmosis.
- Baxter, a two-handed robot from Rethink Robotics, can be manually trained to perform tasks (by manually, we mean manually – move Baxter’s hands and it will learn, no programming necessary) and is a cost-effective option for factories that may not have extensive engineering resources.
- WiTricity is working to put an end to wires using technology that efficiently transfers power over large distances by using oscillating magnetic fields to induce currents in coils; simply put, WiTricity is attempting to develop safe, wireless electric power.
Congrats to the 2014 Technology Pioneers!