Dimitri Krainc Lab Expanding Life Science Developments in Chicago
Vanqua Bio was established in 2019 by Dr. Dimitri Krainc, a neurologist at Northwestern University's Feinberg school of medicine. After a brief period in the school's lab, the new company moved to Sterling Bay's incubator building for life sciences at 2430 N. Halsted St.
Dimitri Krainc MD, Ph.D. is currently the Aaron Montgomery Ward Professor, Chairman of the Department of Neurology, and Director of Center for Neurogenetics, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago. Prior to joining Northwestern, Dr. Krainc worked for more than 20 years as a researcher at Harvard Medical School. He then completed a neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in movement disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital. From then on, he was a member of the Harvard Medical School and MGH neurology faculties until 2013, when he moved to Chicago.
Dimitri Krainc lab's overarching goal was to identify key molecular pathways that lead to neurodegeneration. He focuses on rare genetic disorders, and particularly those with mutations in genes involved in common pathogenic pathways. With the goal of finding specific targets for neurodegenerative treatment, his laboratory has been working on PINK1, Parkin and ATP13A2. His research provided a mechanistic explanation of the link between Parkinson’s disease and Gaucher’s disease, which is caused due to mutations in the GBA1 gene (Cell 2011, 2011). They discovered a bidirectional feedback mechanism between a-synuclein (GCase) and a-synuclein that leads to self-propagating diseases after a threshold. This was also the first study to show that wild-type GCase activity decreased in idiopathic PD. A finding was later confirmed by several other researchers.
Initial research by Vanqua Bio was positive. The firm received $85 million in funding last fiscal year. This allowed it to move into approximately 20,000 square feet at the sixth floor on 1375 W. Fulton St. The company moved in just a few weeks ago and has since hired many people. In the next few years, it will start human testing and possibly double its size.
The new location is a big step up from the small academic lab. Sullivan stated that the rooftop deck, beer garden, and fitness center, as well as other amenities, might seem insignificant. Vanqua is actively recruiting nationwide, and large Class A labs with all the amenities will draw in scientists and workers from other areas of Boston's life science hub, which is the largest in the country, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Being located within a hub for life sciences allows you to stay in touch with other scientists, potential recruits, and collaborators. This energy should help attract more companies.
Developers and industry boosters are hopeful that dozens more Chicago-based firms will follow Vanqua Bio’s lead.
Despite all its successes, Chicago's life science sector is still very young. Boston is home to 27 million square feet of life sciences. Two or three tenants are available for vacant spaces. Chicago will require this kind of pipeline to fill its planned space and sustain it. It is important that the entire community of developers and area hospitals, as well as universities and universities, work together to create a hub instead of everyone working on their projects in different parts of the city.
Before joining Northwestern, Dr. Krainc worked for 20 years on the Harvard neurology faculty. He also served as a fellow in movement disorders and completed a neurology residency. Dr. Krainc studies Parkinson's disease using induced pluripotent stem cell ("man-made") stem cells from Parkinson's patients. He focuses on the genetic aspects of Parkinson's disease.