Archive for July, 2010

GRA Eminent Scholar Launches New Company

A new biotech company has grown out of laboratory and clinical studies of GRA Eminent Scholar Jin-Xiong She and his research team at the Medical College of Georgia.  The company, Jinfiniti Biosciences LLC, is focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and cancer.

Dr. She, director of the MCG Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, is president and CEO of the company, which is housed in the MCG’s Life Sciences Business Development Center, a turnkey incubator for these type of startup companies. Dr. Richard A. McIndoe, the center’s associate director, is Jinfiniti’s vice president for operations and information technology.

Jinfiniti provides a variety of high-throughput scientific services including nucleic acid isolation, genomic analysis, antibody production, immunoassays, medicinal chemistry and toxicity evaluation for academic and pharmaceutical institutions. The company also is developing biomarkers that will enable simple urine or blood tests for early disease detection and monitoring of treatment outcomes.  Additionally, the company is developing new drugs and companion biomarkers for personalized medicine.

Dr. Charles Nawrot, MCG associate vice president for technology transfer and economic development, called She’s company a logical outgrowth of his science which has focused on translational studies such as identifying high-risk genes for type 1 diabetes then studying in humans how they interact with the environment to cause disease.

“Dr. She’s research is at the forefront of diagnosing and treating diabetes and cancer,” said Dr. Charles Nawrot, MCG’s associate vice president for technology transfer and economic development. “Jinfiniti Biosciences will be the vehicle by which his biomarker discoveries will be made available to the public. Soon we will have patient-specific therapies that result from his research into the molecular basis of these diseases.”

Moving laboratory findings into clinical practice is a major thrust of groups like the National Institutes of Health but the transition is a tough one,” said She.  “There are many wonderful scientific discoveries but the vast majority never translate into medical practice.” She wants to help scientists close that gap. “Very few people are going to knock on your door to further develop the technology. That is what startup companies are trying to do: take discoveries to the next step so that big companies become interested.”

She’s new company is part of the GRA VentureLab program, established in 2002 to build companies from the research at GRA’s six affiliated universities

July 20, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

From Science Project to Commercial Success

In 2001 when University of Georgia graduate student James Atwood began working with professors Ron Orlando and Rick Tarleton on a research project, he had no inkling that just eight years later he would be the General Manager of U.S. operations for an Australian biotech company.

The project focused on unraveling the proteomics of Chagas, a tropical parasitic disease that can cause serious stomach and heart problems.  “The research generated lots of data, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” said Atwood.  The solution:  hiring computer professional Brent Weatherly, who helped to develop software to analyze the data.  This led to a publication in 2005 in Science and a starring role at the publisher’s 100th anniversary news conference.

What followed was a suggestion from the UGA technology transfer office to form a company to refine and market the software.  With the agreement of Dr. Orlando and Dr. Tarleton, and the expert advice of Margaret Wagner Dahl, director of the Georgia Research Alliance VentureLab program at UGA, BioInquire was formed. 

“With Phase Ia and Phase Ib VentureLab grants totaling $50,000, we were able to develop a prototype and do some market research,” said Atwood.  “Phase II grants allowed us to go from prototype to marketing and selling our product, ProteoIQ software, which catalogues, analyzes and mines the products of mass spectrometric analysis”

The company’s first sale was to a researcher at the University of North Carolina, and 75% of its market remains academic researchers.

Then, in 2009, BioInquire caught the eye of NuSep, an Australian bioseparations products company.  “NuSep markets the devices to separate proteins; we have the software to analyze the data,” said Atwood.  In December that year, NuSep signed a letter of intent to acquire BioInquire for more than $3 million in three phases over the next 18 months.  “We strongly believe that sales for the ProteomeSep MF10 [bioseparations instrument] will be boosted by providing a complete solution to our mass spectrometry customers,” said NuSep Managing Director and CEO Hari Nair.

The rest of the good news:  NuSep intends to grow operations in Athens, has established its U.S. headquarters in Lawrenceville and has named Atwood its General Manager.

“The whole process has changed my life – and those of many of us involved with BioInquire.  GRA VentureLab put us on the fast track.  They wanted us to succeed,” Atwood said.

July 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment