Annual Report 2021

A year of exceptional life science research, training, service, industry collaboration, and integration of European life science research.

​​Start-up targets pain management

EMBL Rome alumnus gets funding to transfer innovative technology and apply gene therapy to potential therapeutics.

Male scientist working in the lab. On the right side, cross section of a nerve observed with a fluorescent microscope
Left: Paul Heppenstall working in the lab. Right: Microscopy image of a nerve with specific nerve cells highlighted in green. Credit: Paul Heppenstall/EMBL

In 2021, Paul Heppenstall took another step forward towards bringing to market a technology he developed at EMBL that could have several potential therapeutic uses. 

The former EMBL group leader’s start-up, Borea Therapeutics, received seed funding from Sofinnova Partners, an Italian fund dedicated to financing innovative biotechnology.

Borea is developing next-generation adenoviral vectors specifically targeted to the central and peripheral nervous system for gene therapy. The modified vectors operate around two key principles: increased efficiency and safety. 

Heppenstall moved to Italy in 2008 to study the molecular mechanism underlying pain. The experienced neuroscientist had already led his own research group in Germany. At EMBL Rome, he continued to look for molecular targets to manage pain and itch associated with conditions such as neuropathy, dermatitis, and other genetic skin diseases. There he developed a technology, the basis for Borea Therapeutics, that would allow easier, more efficient delivery of genetic material into mammalian cells, as a strategy to treat neuropathic pain.

“Borea Therapeutics’ technology has the potential to pinpoint specific tissues and cells, which would enable the use of lower doses, making treatment safer and more effective for patients.”

— Lucia Faccio, partner at Sofinnova Partners and board member of Borea Therapeutics

“The formation of Borea, a startup based on innovations created at EMBL Rome, is a showcase of how excellent teamwork between scientific founders and EMBLEM enables the progression of outstanding science from ‘bench-to-bedside’.

— Jürgen Bauer, EMBLEM Deputy Managing Director

Next Story

Strengthening links to the biobusiness sector

New event provides a forum for sharing bioinformatics developments with BioBusiness.