BioScience under the Big Sky
Winter 2021 Newsletter
Hall of Fame
2021 Hall of Fame Inductee Announced

The Montana BioScience Alliance is pleased to announce that Michelle Hood has been inducted into the 2021 MBA Hall of Fame. Ms. Hood is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Hospital Association and was instrumental in the formation of the Montana BioScience Alliance. In the early 2000s, when MBA was forming, Ms. Hood was the President and CEO of the Montana region for Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Systems, which involved running hospitals in Billings, Butte, and Miles City, along with clinics in Montana and Wyoming.

Ms. Hood received a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University and a Master of Health Care Administration degree from Georgia State University. She has been a healthcare leader in a variety of settings beyond her time in Montana. Before taking her position with the AHA, she was President and CEO of Northern Light Health, a $1.8 billion integrated system that serves the state of Maine.

A profile of Ms. Hood will be included in the next newsletter and will be added to the new Montana BioScience Alliance website.

Billings native, MSUB grad among country's leading COVID researchers
Head of R&D for NYC's Pandemic Response Lab
By Casey Conlon,Q2 News
December 07, 2021
When the COVID crisis took off in the United States in March 2020, Billings native Jon Laurent found himself in the middle of it, literally, as a scientific researcher at New York University, where his career changed in the blink of an eye.
Almost two years later, the Billings Skyview and Montana State University-Billings grad is now one of the most important figures in the country’s fight, as the head of research and development of New York’s Pandemic Response Lab. As a scientist, he's not used to the spotlight.

Photo by: Photo courtesy CBS News
Jon Laurent is the Director of Research and Development at New York City's Pandemic Response Lab.
Member News
VarSeq 2.2.4 Release
By Julia Love 
   November 30, 2021

We are very excited to announce that just last week, we released VarSeq 2.2.4! In the past few months, we have been building the excitement for the 2.2.4 version of VarSeq with several webcasts in which we describe some of the headlining features in detail such as the new support for Gene Panels and Gene Lists, PhoRank Clinical, and Customized Reporting.

There were several improvements and new features added to VSClinical workflows. Some of the more significant new features involve allowing users to include additional sources such as ClinGen Expert Curated, TP53 ACMG R20, and the population frequency database GenomeAsia to ACMG and AMP evaluations. These sources enhance variant classification with the ACMG guidelines by leveraging work done by experts in the field to better classify certain variants.

Montana ramps up sequencing efforts to monitor for new omicron variant
The first known case of the variant was identified in California Wednesday

BY Keith Schubert, Daily Montanan 
December 1, 2021 
The state health department and its partners have increased their capacity to conduct sequencing of COVID-19 samples in an effort to monitor for the new omicron variant as it continues to pop in various countries around the world, including Wednesday’s report that it’s in America.

“As a new variant emerges, we want to double or even triple sequencing to understand what the prevalence of this new variant might be,” said Vik Ghai, a senior research scientist at FYR Diagnostics in Missoula. Outside of the state laboratory, Montana partners with three other labs — University of Montana, Montana State University and FYR Diagnostics — that conduct COVID-19 sequencing.

Otsuka Responds to the Office of Inspector General’s Favorable Opinion Regarding its Hospital Free Trial Program of Long-Acting Injectable for Inpatient Schizophrenia Treatment

Press Release
November 16, 2021
Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAPI), today acknowledges the importance of the favorable opinion of Otsuka’s Hospital Free Trial Program by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), which provides guidance for the design of manufacturer inpatient free trial programs that provide long-acting anti-psychotic injectable (LAI) products for the treatment of serious mental illness in a hospital setting.

The LAI free trial programs are intended to provide access to medication, free of charge, when a healthcare professional has determined that a patient admitted for the treatment of a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia will benefit from onsite drug therapy with an LAI. Such programs are designed to improve medication adherence and clinical outcomes for a vulnerable patient population. Non-adherence to prescribed therapies leads to poor outcomes among patients with schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder, including worsening of symptoms, suicide, increased rates of hospitalizations and longer lengths of hospital stays, all of which impose significant financial burdens on the healthcare system.

Golden Helix - Leading the Charge in Clinical Variant Analysis
By MedHealth Outlook

One of the main challenges anyone working with NGS data faces is the sheer volume of information. Finding an efficient workflow that will quickly filter through the noise and get to the clinically relevant variants is invaluable for working in this space. This is where Golden Helix—a company delivering industry-leading bioinformatics solutions—is standing apart. 

Golden Helix has created the tools necessary for fast and accurate variant filtering and annotation. In addition to this, GHI has also developed automation tools and built-in workflows for very complex guidelines. For example, the ACMG (American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics) uses weighted evidence to classify variants. This classification system is complicated and can be very challenging for new users to understand. “Golden Helix has a workflow that guides users through a decision tree, which recommends decisions while educating the user on the guidelines,” explains Dr. Andreas Scherer, CEO.
Tonix Pharmaceuticals Announces IND Clearance for Skin Test (TNX-2100) to Measure SARS-CoV-2 Exposure and T Cell Immunity

First-in-Human Study Expected to be Initiated in the First Quarter of 2022
An Approved Test Would Lead to Identification of People Requiring Vaccine Boosters
Press Release
December 14, 2021

Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: TNXP) (Tonix or the Company), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, today announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the Investigational New Drug (IND) application to initiate a first-in-human clinical study for TNX-2100 (SARS-CoV-2 epitope peptide mixtures for intradermal administration), a skin test to measure delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) to SARS-CoV-2 (CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. DTH is a measure of T cell immunity. Tonix expects to initiate the clinical study in the first quarter of 2022.

“When fully developed, our proposed skin test has the potential to provide clinicians, patients, employers and public health officials with important diagnostic, safety and predictive information, including the durability of immune responses in vaccinated, convalescent and exposed individuals,” stated Seth Lederman, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Tonix. “One of the goals of clinical development of TNX-2100 will be to study the potential correlation of a positive skin test with protective immunity. A test that measures protective immunity could allow for a personalized approach to determining the need for vaccine boosters which would reduce costs as well as risks associated with unnecessary vaccinations. In contrast, a one-size-fits-all booster strategy would be relatively more expensive and likely unsustainable.”

McLaughlin Research Institute in Great Falls gets $5M gift

Independent Record, Billings Gazette
Oct 20, 2021
Great Falls-based McLaughlin Research Institute said it recently received a $5 million gift from a California couple, resulting in the largest single contribution in the organization’s history.

The husband at one time was MRI's first high school intern and has maintained ties with the school. The donation from Dr. Irv Weissman and Dr. Ann Tsukamoto-Weissman of Stanford, California, will support the expansion of MRI, including their high school internship program, recruitment efforts and current research projects, as well as launch new directions that ensure sustainability of the institute, MRI officials said.
Where Is Omicron (B.1.1.529)? Has Omicron Been Detected In Montana?
Updated, December 17, 2021

Since FYR’s last December 1st update, Omicron has been detected in over 85 countries and in 38 states. Omicron has not been detected in Montana yet.

Omicron currently accounts for 3% of cases in the United States, where the Delta variant still predominates. However, Omicron quickly overtook Delta in South Africa, where data indicates that Omicron spread there with a doubling time of between 3-4 days. In the UK, early numbers suggest Omicron is spreading with a doubling time of between 2-3 days, and in the city of London, Omicron is already the dominant variant. The doubling time is the amount of time it takes for the number of identified Omicron cases to double. This epidemiological data, along with predictions based on the molecular changes in the spike protein, indicate that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, including Delta. However, more data are needed to define just how much more transmissible Omicron is than Delta, and why.

Terry and Patt Payne Make Six-Figure Gift To Benefit Shodair

November 15, 2021
Shodair Children’s Hospital received a $500,000 gift from Terry and Patt Payne to support the recently launched Building Hope for Montana Families…A Campaign for Shodair Children’s Hospital.

“We are so grateful to Terry and Patt for their generosity toward our capital campaign,” said Craig Aasved, Shodair’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is the kind of support we need from the community for one of the greatest projects in the 125-year history of Shodair Children’s Hospital. The value of their passion and belief in our vision is immeasurable as we move this fundraising effort forward.”

Montana/ University News
By UM News
December 3, 2021
University of Montana first-year student Tori Matteson can’t point to a specific event that peaked her interest in becoming a pharmacist – there aren’t any in her family – but her curiosity about medicine started early in her high school years growing up in Butte. When it came time to enroll in college she looked at a few pharmacy schools in California and Idaho, but in the end it was “UM all the way,” she said. Besides the proximity to home, Matteson said an invitation to participate in the inaugural class of a new UM program designed to fast--track pharmacy students was too good to pass up.

The GrizRx Assurance Program offers a direct path to qualified freshmen interested in pursuing the UM Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Students accepted to the program are enrolled in a focused two-year pre-pharmacy curriculum, are provided concentrated mentorship by pharmacy faculty, opportunities to conduct research and have a reserved seat in their incoming first-year pharmacy class. Each student receives a $1,000 scholarship annually.

MSU researcher elected as member of prestigious National Academy of Medicine

By Marshall Swearingen, MSU News Service
October 19, 2021
A Montana State University researcher known for her work to improve health in Native and rural communities was elected yesterday to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Dr. Alexandra Adams, director of MSU’s Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity, or CAIRHE, was named one of 100 new members in conjunction with the academy’s annual meeting. The honor recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement. An announcement from the academy cited Adams’s work “partnering with Indigenous communities in the Midwest and Montana and pioneering community-engaged research methods.”

Dr. Alexandra Adams, director of MSU’s Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity, or CAIRHE, was elected as one of 100 new members to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez
Montana State researchers help advance sleep-aid device as part of $4.3 million project
By Marshall Swearingen, MSU News Service
December 1, 2021
Postdoctoral researcher Lori Ray, left, and professor Jeff Heys are part of a multi-university project to test a wearable device that aids the brain's restorative activity during sleep. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez
Soon, someone feeling the need for some extra Z’s may benefit from a wearable device that aids the brain in the biochemical cleansing that leaves a person feeling refreshed after a full night of sleep.

As part of the first large-scale study on the effectiveness of the new technology, Montana State University researchers will analyze brain scans of participants who wear a prototype of the device, which works by applying precise electrical stimulation to the brain. The project, which involves multiple universities, is funded by $4.3 million from the Department of Defense.

Industry News
BMS and Kite Unveil CAR-T Successes in Lymphoma
 By Alex Keown
December 13, 2021

Significant advancements in the treatment of relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma are on the horizon. At the American Society of Hematology meeting, this weekend, both Bristol Myers Squibb and Kite Pharma presented promising data from CAR-T programs aimed at this disease. 

At ASH, BMS unveiled data that showed Breyanzi (liso-cel), a CD19-directed CAR-T cell therapy, as a second-line treatment in adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, outperformed the current standard of care for patients in second-line relapsed or refractory LBCL, significantly improving event-free survival (EFS). BMS said that only a small portion of patients who have relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL) experience long-term benefits with high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Data from the pivotal Phase III TRANSFORM study showed that Breyanzi significantly improved median event-free survival with a median of 10.1 months. Standard of care treatment only offered an improvement of 2.3 months with a 65% improvement. 

Roche adds to Genentech's ophthalmology program with $670M in biobucks for Lineage Cell Therapeutics' asset

Dec 20, 2021

Roche’s Genentech has signed what could be a $670 million deal for Lineage Cell Therapeutics’ cell therapy for a range of eye disorders. Lineage is developing a retinal pigment epithelium cell therapy in dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) with geographic atrophy. The treatment, dubbed OpRegen, is currently in a phase 1/2 study for the eye disorder. The small biotech will complete work on that study and hand things over to Genentech.

The Big Pharma is offering $50 million upfront, $620 in milestones plus royalties down the line, according to a Monday release. Genentech will continue clinical development and commercialization of the OpRegen program, and Lineage will continue to have certain manufacturing involvement through the deal.

What's Happening?

What’s Happening December 2021

Montana BioScience Alliance moderated a panel at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) 2021 Cancer Policy Forum on November 3rd. Panelists included: Amanda Dinsdale, Director, Montana Cancer Consortium, Alma Knows His Gun-McCormick, Executive Director, Messengers for Health and Suzanne Held, Professor Health & Human Development, MSU, David Burkhart, COO, Inimmune and Lisa Boyle, Clinical Pharmacist, PacificSouce Health Plans. More information and a recording of the event can be found at:

The Montana BioScience annual meeting took place on November 16 in Billings. Congratulations to Cynthia Tsai, Corbin Schwanke and Greg Meiselbach for their election to the Montana BioScience Board of Directors. Officers elected were Mark Jutila, President, Ron Zook, Vice President, Chris Aageson, Secretary and Carol Beam, Treasurer. Speakers at the annual meeting included: Kristen Ruppenthal, Biomarker testing team Genentech Biooncology, introduced by Tim Layton; Seth Lederman, Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman, Tonix Pharmaceuticals; A vaccine panel introduced and moderated by Jay Evans, Inimmune, Phyliss Arthur, Vice President Infectious Diseases &Emerging Policy, BIO, Dr. Julie Kittelsrud, Pfizer Vaccines, Medical Director for South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and Mike Kauffman, Site Controller, GSK.

Events Calendar
January 10-14, 2022
Fostering the Success of the Industry

BIO One-on-One Partnering unifies access to partnering for the life science industry. You can efficiently arrange meetings with biotechs, investors, in-licensors, medical device and medtech companies, and other life science leaders, regardless of whether you are registered for a specific event during JPM Week. 

2022 BIO CEO & Investor Conference: Hybrid Event

For more than 20 years, the BIO CEO & Investor Conference has fueled the biotech industry networking with premier investor and banking communities, focused on established and emerging publicly traded and select private biotech companies. 

Join us in 2022 - either in person or online - for one of the largest investor conferences focused on established and emerging publicly traded and select private biotech companies, where institutional investors, industry analysts, and senior biotechnology executives have the opportunity to shape the future investment landscape of the biotechnology industry.

As a member of Montana BioScience Alliance, you can save $200 on registration when you use code CEOMA9
Employment and Funding Opportunities
The Montana Bioscience Cluster Initiative 4th F fund

The objective of the 4th “F” Fund (4FF) is to provide direct assistance to Montana Bioscience entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses in need of money for travel to key conferences, small equipment purchases, or temporary staff assistance in relation to proposal development, etc. This fund is designed for maximum flexibility in support of new and established businesses and entrepreneurs in the Bioscience industry.

For the link to the 4th F Fund Application, Click Here!
Careers at The Science and Conservation Center

One of the major efforts of the Science and Conservation Center at ZooMontana involves the humane control of wildlife populations by means of fertility control. To that end, the Science and Conservation Center was created in 1998, an independent non-profit organization that is the world’s only dedicated facility for the development of wildlife contraceptives and methods of application. This center produces and carries out quality control for a wildlife contraceptive vaccine, distributes the vaccine and is the repository for all records and data required by the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information about The Science and Conservation Center, check out their website at

Open Positions:

If you are interested in joining their team, we invite you to take a look at the job listings through the link above and email Kimberly Frank at or call her at (406) 652-9718.

Careers at Mesa

Our 500+ employees do work that matters in following our purpose Protecting the Vulnerable®, applying our skills in ways that make a positive impact. That work is accomplished by rallying behind Mesa’s vision: a customer-focused, lean-based value system, called The Mesa Way! and is based on four pillars that drive our work every day- Measure What Matters, Empower Teams, Steadily Improve, and Always Learn
Careers at Montana Molecular

Montana Molecular develops fluorescent biosensors and reporters for drug discovery and research in living cells. Our products help scientists observe and measure cell processes that are important in maintaining health and treating disease. Our team is focused on creating breakthrough innovations that empower scientists and lead to better therapeutic treatments for disease. The company is committed to building a sustainable biotech industry in the state of Montana, providing good jobs in a safe and healthy environment.

Montana Molecular is growing. We have openings for scientific staff with a desire to bring cutting edge fluorescence technology to the market place. This will involve working with a team to combine experience in molecular biology, live cell imaging and fluorescence microscopy to create new tools for discovery. The people who work here are passionate about science and dedicated to building the next generation of biosensors for drug discovery and cell biology.

Open Positions:

To find out more about the current open positions and about Montana Molecular, Click Here!
Careers at BioScience Laboratories

Open Positions:

If you are interested in joining our team, we invite you to take a look at our job listings through Nelson Labs by visiting the Career Page and searching for Bozeman.

Careers at FYR Diagnostics

FYR Diagnostics is a fast growing Missoula, MT-based biotechnology company developing a powerful portfolio of PCR-focused solutions. FYR Diagnostics’ mission is to commercialize novel detection technologies to help eliminate human suffering by better diagnosing human disease states and to eliminate vast inefficiencies in the agricultural industry.

Those who work with FYR Diagnostics are members of a community that seeks to respect and celebrate all the qualities that make each of us unique. Each of us is empowered to be ourselves within this community, which cultivates and promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion at all levels. FYR Diagnostics is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Workplace and Affirmative Action Employer.

Open Positions:

To find out more about the current open positions, Click Here!
Two Bear Capital provides a job board with the different job openings from
the following companies:

-FYR Diagnostics
-Spiral Genetics

For Open positions with Companies you'll love to work for, Click Here!
Work for a great company in beautiful Bozeman, MT

At Golden Helix, we are committed to accelerating ground-breaking research in genetics, drug discovery and predictive analytics, to our purpose of dramatically improving human health, our great culture, personal development, and strong values.

We are always seeking self-motivated individuals who strive for excellence and have the drive to help us on our journey. We offer competitive wages, benefits and the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

Open Positions:
-Field Application Scientist

General Employment Inquiries
Interested in a position that we're not actively hiring? Submit your resume for our files! We will archive your information and if a position becomes available that matches your qualifications, we'll contact you.
GSK Hamilton

The Hamilton site is located on a 35-acre campus in the heart of the scenic Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. It started in 1981 as Ribi ImmunoChem Research, Inc., a company focused on research and development of vaccine components capable of stimulating the immune system. GSK purchased the site in 2005 to acquire its proprietary adjuvant technology which is used to help make vaccines more effective. GSK Hamilton currently employs over 185 professionals and is expanding its job base with the addition of a new adjuvant manufacturing facility.

To review current openings at the GSK Hamilton (GlaxoSmithKline) site, Click Here!
2022 FAST Micro-Grants are here!

The Montana Innovation Partnership (MTIP) powered by MSU TechLink Center will utilize some of our 2022 FAST funds to provide financial assistance to Montana small businesses that are actively preparing SBIR/STTR proposals in the federal fiscal year 2022.

MTIP will award six FAST Microgrants to eligible SBIR/STTR applicants of up to $2,000 per year. Prospective SBIR/STTR applicants may apply to MTIP to receive Microgrants to attend conferences, travel to speak with agencies or commercialization partners, to acquire consulting services from an approved service provider for assistance with preparation of Phase I or Phase II proposals, to develop supporting project data, and to undertake other activities directly related to their SBIR/STTR proposal.

For more information and to access the application

Open Solicitations From Techlink and MTIP

Dates are subject to change. Please refer to each agency site for up-to-date information.

  • NIH omnibus program announcement. The next submission due date is January 5, 2022.

  • NIH Targeted funding announcements have varying release and due dates. Find a list of currently open program announcements and requests for applications here.

Links to all participating agencies' SBIR home pages are available here.

Reach out today for no-cost consulting and proposal reviews from one of MTIP's SBIR
Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program

What do you do after you have received Stage 1 SBIR/STTR matching funds from the
Montana Department of Commerce, have satisfactorily completed your Phase I work, the
Phase I final report has been accepted by the Federal SBIR/STTR agency, and you have
submitted your SBIR or STTR Phase II proposal?

You submit your Stage 2 application to the Montana SBIR/STTR Matching Funds
Program. You do not have to receive notification of a Phase II award before submitting this
application. For more information, Click Here!

Questions? Feel free to contact Ann at or
Annmarie Robinson with the Department of Commerce at
BIO Business Solutions®, the largest cost-savings program for the life sciences industry, is FREE with your company’s membership in BIO or Montana BioScience Alliance. Receiving savings from our lab and office partners is incredibly simple. We’ve already vetted the suppliers and negotiated discounted pricing and favorable end-user agreements.

Click on the company name to learn more.
There is no fee for MBA members to participate.