Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has awarded $1.5 million in loans to local startups, including a company that uses silk proteins to preserve vaccines for global shipping without the need for cold storage.
The center, a quasi-public agency, provided $1 million to Vaxess Technologies, developer of the vaccine preservation system. That’s the most a single business can receive under the Accelerator Loan Program, which aims to help promising life-sciences companies speed up their development.
I met the Vaxess team in September and was impressed by their blend of innovation and humanitarianism. Consider that curable diseases still ravage remote parts of the world simply because it is difficult for aid groups to keep vaccines refrigerated in the field. Preserving immunizations with silk proteins, as Vaxess aims to do, could solve that problem.
“We’re thrilled and honored to receive the award,” chief executive Michael Schrader said.
It’s been a good year for this group from Harvard. Vaxess also was among the first group of life- sciences companies accepted to the new LabCentral shared workspace, which opened in Cambridge last month, and was a finalist this year in the “startup to watch” category of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council Awards.
A second company, Guided Surgery Solutions of Wellesley, got a $520,000 loan to develop a three-dimensional imaging device to help dentists drill and place implants more accurately.
The loans bring the Accelerator program’s totals to 25 companies and $16.2 million since 2009. The program reports that previous loans have added $105 million in equity or acquisition proceeds to their recipients.
— Callum Borchers
BlackJet sputters as it seeks cash
A celebrity-backed startup that wanted to become the Uber of private jet travel — and that had Uber cofounder Garrett Camp on its founding team — has laid off most of its employees as it seeks to raise more cash.
Florida-based BlackJet raised more than $2 million in October from Ashton Kutcher, Jay-Z, Will Smith, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, and Ryan Sarver, a former Twitter executive who earlier worked at Boston-based Skyhook Wireless.
It planned to sell seats on private jets flying popular routes: New York-Los Angeles or Boston-San Francisco. (The company’s site quotes a BOS-SFO one-way trip at $3,766.) But to buy those seats using BlackJet’s website or mobile app, you’d have to pay an annual membership fee of $2,500. Members would also have to give two days’ notice when they wanted to fly.
BlackJet was the new incarnation of a West Palm Beach company that had tried something similar as early as 2010, called Greenjets. But less than a year after BlackJet’s splashy launch last fall, its chief technology officer had departed, and founder Garrett Camp — also chairman of Uber — was no longer even mentioning the company on his LinkedIn profile.
BlackJet CEO Dean Rotchin said he had expected additional funding “in the second quarter of this year, which did not come through.” He said the company continues to offer a more traditional aircraft charter service but has “curtailed” the per-seat offering.
Rotchin says the key to operating the per-seat service profitably is, quite simply, attracting enough members who want to fly to the 10 cities BlackJet serves.
— SCOTT KIRSNER