Mount Ida Campus

Additives Developed by Startup at UMass Amherst Mount Ida Campus have Applications from Plastics to Paints

Xheme, a specialty materials company based at the UMass Amherst Mount Ida Campus in Newton and affiliated with the UMass Innovation Institute (UMII), has developed a non-toxic programmable powder to make “smarter” plastics and coatings. Xheme Multifunctional Additives (XMAs), which can be customized based on application, boast a range of promising uses, from the next generation of blood storage bags to paint that is more resistant to fungus and fading.

Innovation Institute wordmark
The Xheme logo

XMAs can significantly control or eliminate oxidative stress, which can cause the breakdown of key cellular structures, such as membranes, lipids, proteins, lipoproteins and DNA. They also resist microbial growth and damage from ultraviolet light. Unlike some other additives currently in use, XMAs do not contain dangerous carcinogenic endocrine disruptors linked to various health problems, including asthma and diminished male reproductive capability.

“The XMA portfolio is unlike any other additive being used in bioprocessing today,” explains Kumar Challa, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Xheme. “Unlike current antioxidants, which are either free-radical scavengers or remove peroxides, XMAs are holistic — performing both functions. XMAs are also regenerative, which other antioxidants are not, meaning less needs to be used for a better result.”

UMII has been a key to Xheme’s success. It provides coworking and lab space on the Mount Ida Campus just outside of Boston and, in conjunction with the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), access to world-class core equipment facilities on the commonwealth’s flagship campus in Amherst. Technical expertise at the IALS Cell Culture Core Facility helped to validate XMAs’ unique properties and commercial viability.

“We developed and executed methods that explored high and low levels of XMA powder under growth conditions similar to bioproduction,” says Michael Daley, cell culture director at IALS.

In testing conducted at UMass Amherst, XMA particles demonstrated a dose-dependent enhancement of cell proliferation of roughly 50%. The additives also have antibacterial properties; protect against gamma, X-ray and UV radiation; and exhibit excellent biocompatibility with cells, leading to improved upstream bioprocessing results.

Kumar Challa

Listen to an interview with Xheme Co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer Kumar Challa discussing XMAs and his company’s partnership with the UMass Innovation Institute on WBZ NewsRadio’s “New England Weekend.”

“These findings suggest that XMA-based cell culture media, bioprocessing bags and trays will increase the yield and quality of the biologics produced,” Daley concludes.

“Xheme is a wonderful example of an innovative company working across multiple areas at UMass, from leasing space at our Mount Ida Campus to capitalizing on research at UMass Lowell and utilizing our core facilities at UMass Amherst,” UMII Director Kathryn Ellis says. “They have also brought us value by hiring our students as interns and working with research all the while maximizing our multicampus expertise and capabilities.”

Xheme is currently working with several Fortune 500 companies in the plastics and paint industries to bring XMAs to market. The company continues to grow its leadership team with the recent addition of executives with backgrounds in the pharmaceutical industry and precision medicine.