Alumnus Paul Manning ’77 and his wife, Diane, have committed $3 million through their family foundation to expand the Manning Innovation Program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The gift provides three years of support to advance a strong and sustainable commercialization pipeline of the university’s applied and translational research projects.
The Manning Innovation Program, based at the university’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), offers grants to advance applied research and development efforts in science and engineering through the creation of start-ups and licensing of intellectual property. Since its inception, 14 faculty members have received a Manning Innovation Award, including a research professor who has used these new funds to make progress toward life-saving new treatments for liver disease. The program has also fostered a stronger culture of entrepreneurship at the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and greater collaboration between Isenberg School of Management advisers, science and technology researchers, and industry experts then that they strive to translate research into disruptive products in the field.
“Early-stage innovation is a high-risk proposition and difficult to find funding for,” says Peter Reinhart, Founding Director of IALS. “The Manning Innovation Program is catalytic in that it creates a competitive mechanism for the creation and development of promising start-ups focused on human health and well-being.”
The success of the program is illustrated by the diversity and quality of the projects supported so far. Through these grants, faculty members translate research into viable solutions that address problems in areas such as cancer treatments, wastewater treatment, veterinary science, and reproductive health care.
The Manning Innovation Program was originally created in 2019 with $1 million in seed funding from the Mannings and was initially only open to CNS faculty. “When we created the Manning Innovation Program nearly three years ago, our goal was to fund brilliant minds as they tackle some of the world’s biggest problems,” says Paul Manning. “But the success of the program has exceeded our expectations, which is why we are investing in its expansion. We look forward to seeing many more innovative solutions that are sure to have a global impact.
A catalyst for partnerships
IALS is the catalyst for industrial and university partnerships. The institute contributes to the creation of new companies and new products in collaboration with the Isenberg School of Managementthe Berthiaume Entrepreneurship Centerthe UMass Institute of Innovation, and the Technology Transfer Office. Examples of intellectual property stemming from Manning-supported projects include a treatment to suppress inflammatory bowel disease, new technology to deliver probiotics in gummy form, methodology to reduce impurity-induced responses to herbal therapies. RNA and Zika Virus Enzyme Inhibitor to Treat Birth. malformations and neurological disorders.
A particular success has been Cyta Therapeutics, an early-stage life science company developing products to regenerate and restore liver function in a variety of liver diseases. The research is led by Emeritus Professor of Chemistry S. “Thai” Thayumanavan. The Manning Translational Grant supported Thayumanavan’s lab in the development of a liver-targeted nanogel, demonstrating drug release and attenuation of disease progression, and determining an appropriate dosing regimen in a mouse model.
“The Manning Innovation Program has had a significant impact on CSI faculty,” notes CSI Dean Tricia Serio. “The resources and funding that come with these awards have enabled our entrepreneurial faculty members to pursue areas of research that have real-world implications, and then funnel potentially game-changing solutions into an accelerated production pipeline – all while training students to be future leaders in their fields. This new gift ensures that our innovators will continue to have the opportunity to use their expertise to improve lives.”
The Mannings’ philanthropy has prioritized entrepreneurship with an eye on healthcare-focused investments. Paul is also a lead investor in the Maroon Venture Fund, a for-profit venture capital fund that invests in start-up companies linked to UMass Amherst.
“Paul and Diane Manning are visionary donors who understand the need to accelerate the translation of research into solutions for the betterment of society,” notes Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “Through their generosity, the university is driving innovation with global implications, and we are thrilled and grateful for their continued support.”
Paul Manning is an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. He founded the PBM Capital Group, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2010. PBM is a healthcare-focused private investment group that uses its entrepreneurial and operational experience to manufacture high-growth pharmaceuticals, diagnostics molecules, gene therapies, life sciences, health and wellness. , and investments in consumer products. Earlier in his career, he founded several successful companies that developed and distributed prescription and over-the-counter products to major chains in the United States. He was named Virginia Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2002.
Diane L. Manning is a Michigan State graduate who has worked on boards and nonprofits, including as director of the Manning Family Foundation and co-founder of Focus to Cure Diabetes. Foundation, and supports the Foundation Fighting Blindness. In 2010, she received the first Richmond Dining in the Dark Visionary Award for her dedication to fighting blindness and supporting vision research.