News: Featured Stories

The Minter lab is part of a new partnership between the Institute for Applied Life Sciences and Anika Therapeutics. Assistant Professor Lisa Minter is second from left above. (Photo credit: Jim Gipe, Pivot Media)
June 18, 2015

New Partners, New Therapy

  • Amherst
Life science faculty and Anika Therapeutics join in new rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

A major partnership announced on June 17 embodies exactly what the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is all about.

The institute will collaborate with Anika Therapeutics, Inc., on research to develop a new therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects multiple joints of the body and can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. It affects approximately 1.3 million Americans, and that number is expected to increase significantly as the population ages.

“This research can potentially help a huge number of people,” says Peter Reinhart, IALS director. “Many patients don’t respond to existing treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.”

The agreement with Anika is the first major partnership for IALS. The institute’s goal is to translate life science research into products and services that improve human health in collaboration with industry partners. Anika, based in Bedford, Mass., is a global medical technology company that is a leader in products for tissue protection, healing, and repair based on hyaluronic acid technology.

“This partnership allows us to tap into Anika’s knowledge of hyaluronic acid chemistry and its regulatory and drug approval expertise,” explains Reinhart.

Two UMass researchers from two different disciplines will collaborate with Anika on the project, drawing on the interdisciplinary nature of IALS.  Professor of Chemistry Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan brings his broad expertise in both organic and polymer chemistry, including knowledge of nanomedicine, to the project. Lisa Minter, assistant professor of veterinary and animal sciences, will apply her lab’s groundbreaking research in aberrant immune responses to the collaboration.

“These three pieces combine to create a novel enterprise,” says Reinhart. “The partnership hits the sweet spot of our mission to work with industry to turn our life science discoveries into products that improve human health.”