Life Sciences: Cutting-Edge Research and Technological Innovation
Bioscience innovators drive groundbreaking research
A fat cell on a microchip speeding drug-safety studies. Software untangling how viruses spread and evolve. Radioactive drugs diagnosing and treating diseases. Research parks and advisors providing infrastructure and support for early-stage biotech firms need to thrive and grow.
Welcome to Louisiana’s vibrant life sciences sector, where cutting-edge technology and groundbreaking research are the norm, private companies and academic institutions drive discovery, and local and state governments enthusiastically support these efforts.
Here are a handful of the bioscience companies and institutions making their mark in Louisiana and the world:
- AxoSim. The Tulane University spinout was created to address the “unsustainably high clinical failure rates” — 89 percent of all new drugs and 94 percent of neurological drugs fail in clinical trials — that cost pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars and patients years of waiting for new medications and therapies for neurological diseases. AxoSim’s proprietary NerveSim® and BrainSim® platforms model human results in vitro, predicting clinical performance in the lab and offering an alternative to animal testing, an essential part of preclinical drug development that often fails to predict human results.
- BioInfoExperts. The Thibodaux company’s patented, cloud-based software, FoxSeq, lets scientists study the evolution, composition and transmission of disease-causing organisms. BioInfoExperts completed the first whole-genome sequences of COVID-19 from the New Orleans area. The firm licensed FoxSeq to Ochsner Health System, LSU Health New Orleans, and the New Orleans Department of Health. It shared that data with the Louisiana Department of Health, which used it to help limit the virus’s spread. BioInfoExperts CEO and founder Susanna Lamers, an epidemiologist, describes her pioneering software as “part biology, part computational science, part statistical analysis.”
- Louisiana Cancer Research Center. Created by the state legislature, LCRC’s member institutions are a sample of Louisiana’s best: LSU Health New Orleans, Tulane University, Xavier University, and Ochsner Health. Linking scientists across campuses and disciplines, LCRC integrates the efforts of various cancer-fighting institutions. From molecular signaling and genetics studies to tumor biology and cancer prevention research, LCRC strengthens and encourages these research collaborations. By aligning community outreach efforts and performing impactful research, LCRC has generated $2.5 billion in economic impact.
- Obatala Sciences. The first New Orleans life sciences company run by a Black woman (Trivia Frazier, Ph.D., MBA) and the first female, minority-owned biotech firm in Louisiana to raise more than $1 million in institutional investment. Obatala’s proprietary “fat on a chip” system lets researchers study weight-loss and cancer therapies without animal testing. The company draws its name from an ancient West African god who created humanity by drawing tissues together. Obatala Sciences also offers the first commercially available human-derived three-dimensional culture scaffold, ObaGel, which allows for more accurate models of human tissue compared to traditional two-dimensional culture materials.
- Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The world research leader is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Recent research shows a chemical compound called BAM15 could be a potential treatment for obesity and improve the quality of life for older adults. In another first, researchers quantified the percentage of all-cause and cardiovascular disease deaths caused by physical inactivity. Scientists have also designed apps that help combat obesity for children and adults, improve weight management and track calorie consumption. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Five faculty members rank among the world’s most cited researchers, according to Google Scholar Citations database.
The state has also created incentive programs to boost the life sciences industry, chief among them the Research and Development Tax credit. The incentive program offers up to a 30 percent tax credit to existing businesses with operating facilities in Louisiana to establish or continue research and development activities within Louisiana.
There is no cap on the credit and no minimum requirement for spending.