UB spinoff Abcombi Biosciences lands spot in Johnson & Johnson’s Toronto incubator

Blaine Pfeifer (left) and Charles Jones of Abcombi Biosciences.

By Cory Nealon

It has been quite a year for University at Buffalo spinoff company Abcombi Biosciences. Since forming last June, the biomedical startup has:

  • Received a $323,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
  • Completed preclinical trials for a promising pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Been accepted into the START-UP NY economic development program.

In another indication of the company’s fast-growing potential, it has been accepted into JLABS @ Toronto, a prestigious new biomedical research incubator spearheaded by Johnson & Johnson, the global medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer.

“We’re honored to be part of the inaugural group of startups at JLABS @ Toronto,” said Abcombi CEO Charles Jones, who received a PhD in chemical and biological engineering from UB in February 2016. “Connecting our Buffalo-based headquarters to this one-of-a-kind incubator program will help us bring to market medical advancements that will alleviate suffering for millions of people worldwide.”

JLABS bills itself as a “no-strings attached” incubator, meaning companies pay only rent and receive lab space, use of equipment, mentorship and other services at no cost.

Abcombi was formed to commercialize two innovations: a protein-based vaccine platform and a new drug delivery method, developed in the research laboratories of UB faculty members Blaine Pfeifer, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Jonathan Lovell, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

Both Pfeifer and Lovell are co-founders of Abcombi. The company is working with Lovell’s “nanoballoon” innovation, which uses modified liposomes that, upon being struck by a red laser, pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine.

Abcombi, which recently won first place in the biotechnology category of the New York Business Plan competition, gained acceptance in JLABS @ Toronto with the help of UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR). It will remain in its headquarters at 73 High St. on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and move the bulk of its laboratory work to Toronto this summer.

Earlier this year, the company was voted the $20,000 winner in the Bright Buffalo Niagara entrepreneur expo business plan competition, and was one of 16 finalists in this year's 43North competition, a $5 million Buffalo-based business plan competition.

The company is developing a stable of products, but its initial emphasis is on developing a new vaccine for pneumococcal disease, which is an infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infection.