Travera was founded in 2017 to commercialize a breakthrough measurement technology and biomarker developed in the Manalis Laboratory in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. The core technology, a MEMS device called the Suspended Microchannel Resonator (SMR), is an exquisitely sensitive scale that can measure a small change in the weight of a single cancer cell. When cancer cells respond to cancer drugs, they start their process of dying by changing weight in just a few hours. The SMR can detect this tiny weight change. As most cancer cells die naturally within 1-2 days of being removed from the human body, speed is critical to distinguish between natural cell death and cell death induced by a cancer drug. It is this exquisite sensitivity that enables the SMR to detect a cancer cell’s response to a cancer drug while it is still a viable cell.
This weight-change measurement is called the Mass Accumulation Rate (MAR) biomarker (where “mass” is used instead of “weight”). The extraordinary characteristic of MAR as a cancer biomarker is that it has the potential to personalize a broad range of cancer drugs for almost every cancer patient. It effectively incorporates all genetic biomarkers, both known and unknown, and incorporates the myriad of other factors (epigenetic, metagenetic, environmental, and any others), both known and unknown, that affect a cancer cell’s response to a cancer drug.
The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently published results of a small study of multiple myeloma patients. Travera is expanding this study of multiple myeloma patients and extending the application of the MAR biomarker to other cancers. If successful, Travera will provide the oncology community with the first universal biomarker for cancer.
Clifford Reid is the founding CEO of Travera. Previously, Dr. Reid was the founding Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Complete Genomics (NASDAQ:GNOM), a leading developer of whole human genome DNA sequencing technologies and services. Prior to Complete Genomics he founded two enterprise software companies: Eloquent (NASDAQ:ELOQ), an internet video company, and Verity (NASDAQ:VRTY), an enterprise search engine company. Dr. Reid is on the Visiting Committee of the Biological Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a member of the MIT Corporation Development Committee, and an advisor to Warburg Pincus. He earned a S.B. in Physics from MIT, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and a Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
David Margulies is a physician executive and entrepreneur. David has founded or co-founded six successful technology-based health system and health services companies. He created the first clinical computing programs at both Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital, serving as BCH’s first Chief Information Officer. He was Executive Vice President, Chief Scientist, and a Director of Cerner Corporation. He co-founded CareInsite, now WebMD, serving in Director and senior executive roles. He co-founded and was CEO and Chairman of Correlagen Diagnostics, and he co-founded of Generation Health. He is on the board of Directors at the Commonwealth Health Alliance. David is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Medical School, and board certified in Internal Medicine. He holds an appointment as Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and is a member of the faculties of Genetics, Developmental Medicine, and Informatics.
Scott Manalis is a professor of biological and mechanical engineering at MIT and has been a faculty member at MIT since 1999. His research group applies microfabrication technologies towards the development of novel methods for probing biological systems. Current projects focus on using electrical and mechanical detection schemes for analyzing DNA, proteins and single cells. Dr. Manalis was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the Department of Defense. He was previously selected by Technology Review magazine as one of the 100 innovators under the age of 35 whose work and ideas "will have a deep impact on how we live, work and think in the century to come." He received the B.S. degree in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the PhD degree in applied physics from Stanford University.
Rob Kimmerling is the Director of Research of Development and a co-founder of Travera. He received his B.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Stony Brook University, where he first started working on microfluidic device development for single-cell analysis applications. Rob continued in this field at MIT where he earned his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering. His graduate work focused on developing novel microfluidic platforms for collecting linked measurements of single-cell biophysical and transcriptional properties. After graduating, he continued developing these projects as a Research Scientist at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, where he led a team utilizing these approaches to characterize transcriptional signatures associated with single-cell drug susceptibility in various malignancies.
Selim Olcum is the Director of Engineering and a co-founder of Travera. Prior to this, he was a research scientist at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. During his tenure at MIT, he invented several techniques enabling rapid assessment of single-cell growth. Dr. Olcum received his post-doctoral training at the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. During this time, he developed high-precision, real-time measurement methods for attogram-level analysis of cell-derived vesicles and nanoparticles in suspension. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees all in Electrical Engineering from Bilkent University, Turkey. His dissertation work focused on MEMS-based ultrasound transducers for biomedical applications. He has co-authored over 40 journal papers and conference proceedings, and is the inventor of several patents.
Mark Stevens is the Director of Clinical Development and a co-founder of Travera. He joined Travera from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where as a research scientist he led a team working on the development of the MAR biomarker platform across malignancies. Previously, Mark established more than a decade of successful, biology-focused interdisciplinary pursuits. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington, where his research focused on the biophysical properties of cell membranes. After a brief stint at the imaging cytometer start-up Amnis, he started his Ph.D. in Biology at MIT. His thesis work at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research focused on translational and biological applications of single-cell biophysical measurements, spanning single-cell cancer metabolism to cancer biomarker development.
David Weinstock, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a Staff Physician and Independent Investigator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and Associate Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, MD from George Washington University and his post-graduate training in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Infectious Diseases at New York Hospital/Cornell and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2008, Dr. Weinstock moved to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, where he directs a translational research program focused on novel therapeutic targets in lymphoid malignancies
Keith Ligon is a Physician-Scientist with expertise in neuropathology and oncology focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. He attended medical school and received his PhD at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School with joint appointments at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Broad Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). He is the Chief of Neuropathology at BWH/DFCI and the Director of the Center for Patient Derived Models (CPDM) at DFCI. His research and clinical activities have improved the scientific understanding of brain tumors. He has also led efforts to train neuropathologists in the utilization of genomic tests in practice and led genomically informed clinical trials development at the local and national consortium levels.
Steve Wasserman is an instructor in the Biological Engineering Department at MIT, where he teaches hands-on lab courses in the area of bioinstrumentation (20.309 and 20.345) that demand building, debugging, iteration, and understanding complex systems and processes. His classes teach how to create mental models of complex systems and apply those models to achieve breakthrough performance. Steve is the Consulting Director of Engineering at Q-State Biosciences, and he also develops instruments for academic and industrial labs. Previously, Steve developed high-tech products in the Silicon Valley, working at Apple, Microsoft, WebTV and 3DO. His interests and skills include optics, electronics, woodworking, glass blowing, and computer programming.