Vermont Biosciences Alliance Fall Newsletter

Fall Newsletter 
VBSA was created to foster recognition of medicine and bioscience as a leading industry in the Vermont region and promote economic and human well-being by strengthening sector attention, research resources, and venture growth. To the businesses and organizations who are currently members, thank you for supporting the bioscience industry in Vermont.

Save the date! The final 2019 Bio & Tech Beer will be December 5th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at Queen City Brewery, 703B Pine Street, Burlington. Registration will be available on our events page:  VBSA Events.
2019 New England Venture Summit: 
Featuring more than 100 VCs as speakers and judges, more than 100 Top Innovators as presenters, and high-level networking opportunities, this summit will be held on December 3rd and 4th at The Hilton in Boston Dedham, MA. VtTA has posted a 10% discount code here: VtTA Events. For updates and more information check here: NEVS 2019
This forum will showcase a variety of academic-industry partnering activities underway today, with the goal of stimulating our creativity as we continue to pursue impactful ways to rapidly advance better healthcare outcomes for patients. Held November 21st from 8:00 to 10:00 AM at MassBio, 300 Technology Square 8th Fl, Cambridge, MA.
Join us at the Vermont Economic Conference to understand national, global, and state perspectives on economic trends impacting the year ahead. Registration will open in early November and the conference will be January 23rd, 2020.
Industry News
DRIVEN Secures Funding to Provide Seed Grants:
Celdara Medical, LLC and Simbex today announced the award of $250,000 in supplemental funds to the DRIVEN Accelerator Hub. The DRIVEN Accelerator Hub is an NIH-funded consortium led by Celdara Medical (therapeutics and diagnostics) and Simbex (medical devices and digital health) and includes 10 of the leading research institutions in the Northeast. The supplemental funds will be used to create the following programs:
1. DRIVEN Acceleration Fund ($50,000/award): for early stage companies participating in the DRIVEN Partnership Program to accomplish strategic goals, undertake key value-driving experiments, or otherwise increase their risk-adjusted expectation of quality-adjusted life year creation.
2. DRIVEN Ignition Fund ($25,000/award): for innovations or discoveries that need additional experimentation before company formation or out-licensing is warranted. Ignition Fund awardees will not participate in the DRIVEN Partnership Program as the Ignition Fund is specifically for the advancement of pre-company formation discoveries. This fund expands DRIVEN's ability to engage with its smaller partners, and with earlier-stage academic innovation.
Haematologic Technologies is an authority within the blood coagulation and protein chemistry fields and has grown to become a leading provider of coagulation reagents and bioanalytical services through its focus in custom protein purification, protein modification, assay development, and GMP compliant stability and release testing. They look forward to entering the next phase of their growth with the support of Edgewater Capital Partners, a Cleveland, OH based private equity firm with extensive experience in the life science industries.
Education News
Vermont is a member of the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program, which seeks to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical research. The IDeA-state entrepreneurship program (I-Trep) is a new NIH-supported education program based in Vermont. Continuing with our mission to provide training and education in biomedical entrepreneurship, the I-Trep program is offering paid specialized internships for 2019-2020. The internships aim to provide career development for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students from any Vermont-based academic institution and foster business-research collaborations within Vermont.

Eligible hosts include any bioscience-based business or other businesses such as law offices or consultant firms that support the bioscience community. Terms of the internship are meant to be flexible to accommodate the desired career skill development or business-research partnership goals. The intern will be paid through the I-Trep grant and internships will be a maximum of 12 weeks in duration. Host organizations may submit nominations for candidates who they have already identified or contact the program to see if there are any candidates that fit the host organization's needs.

If your organization would like to participate, please contact Tina Thornton (, coordinator for the I-Trep program, for more information.
Bia Diagnostics invests in Vermont with their new cannabis lab

On August 22nd Bia Diagnostics celebrated the grand opening of their new full service lab for cannabis and hemp testing. Located in Colchester, the new lab is pristine and humming with new equipment. VBSA recently caught up with Thom and Robin Grace, co-owners of Bia Diagnostics, and Carly Barone, Laboratory Scientist, who heads up the new lab, to ask about the story behind the opening.

Bia Diagnostics first began contemplating cannabis testing several years ago after a conversation with university colleagues who run a dispensary. That conversation raised the question: could technology from food analysis be applied to cannabis? While Bia pondered the possibilities, deregulation of hemp and cannabis progressed. Notably, regulators set a standard that THC must be below 0.3% to legally sell a cannabis product, creating a clear need for reliable testing.

About a year ago Bia Diagnostics began serious research into cannabis testing. They talked to regulators in DC and by winter of 2019 decided to invest in a whole new lab dedicated to cannabis testing. The lab handles a thorough list of tests for THC and CBD, residual solvents from extraction processes, terpenes, and contaminants like heavy metals, mycotoxins, pesticides, and even microbes. In keeping with the greater mission of the company, their goal for the cannabis lab is to provide consumers and producers with the best information so they can make the safest products possible.

A big part of Bia Diagnostics' motivation for opening the lab has been their vision of contributing as an asset to the Vermont artisanal economy. Vermont is increasingly known for its quality artisanal products, especially consumables like craft beer or small batch dairy. With the right analytical tools to guarantee quality, Vermont can add artisanal cannabis products to its roster of fine foods. Thom and Robin were very explicit that they see Bia Diagnostics' investment in a brand new lab with brand new equipment as "investing in Vermont."

When I asked about the challenges they've faced in setting up the new lab Thom jokingly exclaimed, "infinite!". Yet it's clearly the challenge that has excited Bia Diagnostics. They wanted to be a part of the solution to the challenges faced by this young and growing consumables market. Carly added that cannabis testing is new for absolutely everyone, so while the state of Vermont has been a great resource, the regulators are figuring things out as they go. Even growers don't know what they need. Many have never dealt with analytical data before and are looking to Bia Diagnostics for guidance.

The challenge of so many unanswered questions is an opportunity for Bia Diagnostics to contribute new knowledge. What is the best way to provide quality information to growers? What types of samples need to be analyzed? How should they be handled to provide reliable and accurate data? Already Carly has been honored with an award for her research into the location of terpenes in cannabis plants.

Even though the cannabis lab has only been open for business for two months, they've been very busy with a backlog of samples. The lab is also under pressure to move fast. Growers need to know when to harvest for optimal levels of THC versus CBD - they want THC as low as possible while CBD is as high as possible. They need the results from their samples to determine that optimal window, so the turnaround time on results must be on the scale of days, not weeks.

As busy as they are, Bia Diagnostics is already looking to the future for the cannabis lab. On the horizon for next year, they may add genetic testing to verify seed batches that should be exclusively male or female and to check genetic signatures for specific hybrids.

While it may be early days for the Vermont cannabis market, with their new full service cannabis and hemp testing lab, Bia Diagnostics is working hard to answer critical questions and provide the analytical tools that regulators and growers will need to ensure high quality products for consumers. 
Membership:  Have friends at other businesses that are interested in bioscience and entrepreneurship in Vermont? Invite them to join the VBSA! Joining the VBSA sends a message of support for Vermont bioscience companies and organizations.   Click here   for more on the benefits of joining the VBSA and to sign up.
News: If your business has announcements, milestones, or projects they would like to share with the VBSA community, please get in touch with us! You can email your news and information to
Call for Seminars: The VBSA is always interested in hosting new workshops and seminars! You can suggest seminar ideas to Rachel Sargent Mirus at
Twitter:  Connect with VBSA on Twitter at
Member Benefit
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