Philadelphia Business Journal | October 5, 2012
After coping with her mother’s decade-long decline and eventual death from Alzheimer’s — a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans and costs Medicare and Medicaid $170 billion annually — Dr. Maria Maccecchini committed herself to finding a cure. She set out to find a therapy that improves upon existing treatments, which address only one of the several toxic proteins responsible for the disease at a time, by addressing all these proteins simultaneously. And she thinks she’s found it — in the form of a compound that she believes can inhibit the progression of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In 2008, Maccecchini founded QR Pharma Inc. of Berwyn to develop and market the therapeutic compound. With funds from BioAdvance, Ben Franklin Technology Partners and several angel investors, she was able to acquire the rights to QR’s technology from Raptor Pharma and the National Institutes of Health and conduct a phase-I proof-of-mechanism study proving that unique aspects of the compound’s mechanism allow it to reduce levels of toxic proteins in impaired patients’ brains.
Maccecchini has continued to pursue grants from private and public institutions and recently received a $450,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to pursue the development of QR’s lead compound for treating Parkinson’s disease.
Maccecchini holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Basel in Switzerland. She holds 40 patents and in the past three years alone has published seven peer-reviewed articles. Prior to her role as president and CEO of QR Pharma Inc., Maccecchini was director and member of Robin Hood Ventures and chairwoman of the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group. — Carl O’Donnell
When Mihir Shah founded UE LifeSciences Inc. in January 2009, the Chester Springs firm had only $150,000 in funding from friends and family and the economy was in a tailspin. Within six months, UELS was selling its first product, a cancer detection product for women under 40 called NoTouch BreastScan, in Europe. At the end of its second year, UELS was profitable. UELS has attained FDA approval for NoTouch BreastScan, bringing the touchless and radiation-free breast exam — ideal for women with dense breasts, women under the age of 40 and women at high risk for breast cancer — to the U.S. market.
Shah co-founded UELS with Matthew Campisi, currently vice president of technology, to address shortfalls in mammograms, which often overlook cancers in women with dense breasts and are inappropriate for mass screening in countries like India, China, Russia and Brazil. The NoTouch BreastScan has been demonstrated in three clinical studies in the United States, United Kingdom and India to detect early-stage breast cancer with 88 percent accuracy. The product is now being used in clinics around the world and was recently aired during a feature segment of CBS’s medical show, “The Doctors,” on Sept. 4.
UELS has also obtained exclusive worldwide license to manufacture, distribute and sell a patented tactile sensor technology from Drexel University. In its first clinical trial, the device discovered nine of 11 tumors, including a tumor that was missed by a mammogram. UELS received $878,000 in grant funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s CURE program to further develop the technology.
In addition, Shah has helped commercialize and clinically validate a hand-held brain imaging technology, which gained FDA approval in 2012. And he enabled licensing of a medical-device technology called IQ, which is a noninvasive cardiac output monitoring technology invented at Drexel University. — Carl O’Donnell