Advaita, a Plymouth, MI biotechnology startup company spun out from Wayne State University, is one of 25 companies selected to participate in the new Michigan I-Corps program starting May 2013.
Michigan I-Corps is a statewide program designed to foster, grow and nurture a statewide innovation ecosystem. Through partnerships between the National Science Foundation (NSF), Michigan universities - Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, Northern Michigan University and Oakland University, - Michigan SmartZones, and venture capital and entrepreneurial communities, Michigan I-Corps will create an opportunity for businesses throughout the state to turn technology into commercial opportunities.
"This opportunity will allow us to hone the finer skills of cultivating and retaining customers, as well as learn real-time methods to make our scientific innovation more marketable," said Andrew Olson, vice president of business development for Advaita.
The primary goal of Michigan I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology. The I-Corps program is designed to help scientists find practical applications for their research. Throughout the six-week program, customer discovery and business plan creation are emphasized.
Advaita was founded in 2005 by Sorin Draghici, Ph.D. a computer science professor in Wayne State University's College of Engineering. Advaita is the exclusive licensee of a patented technology developed at Wayne State and has developed a software application called "Pathway-Guide" that helps researchers and pharmaceutical companies understand the data resulting from gene expression experiments.
Pathway-Guide provides researchers with what Olson characterizes as the most sophisticated gene pathway analysis available. "We offer the only pathway analysis software that looks at each type of gene and its position and role on the pathway. The advantage to Advaita's software is that it eliminates the false positive results that are common with current methods of gene-expression analysis."
According to Draghici, the traditional method of measuring mRNA transcripts-analyzing the differences in the levels that genes are expressed-is not a comprehensive way to understand disease. "Our software takes those differences and tells us where along a pathway those genes went wrong," he explains.
Advaita's software has already garnered a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I and Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) worth $2.4M; and $125K from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund. In addition, Advaita was selected this year to participate in the prestigious NIH CAP (Commercialization Assistance Program).
While knowledge gained from grant-supported basic research frequently advances a particular field of science or engineering, clinically-relevant results show immediate potential for broader applicability and improved patient care. Such results may be translated through I-Corps into technologies with near-term benefits for the economy and society. With these goals in mind, Advaita plans to address the need for more streamlined drug-discovery methods that will save time and money for the academic and pharmaceutical industries. By leveraging Pathway-Guide's unique ability to more efficiently target specific genes implicated in a disease or disease treatment, the company will commercialize a technology benefitting both the Michigan economy and our society as a whole.