Lucidicor, Inc. wins Phase I NIH Grant

InteliSpark client, Lucidicor Inc. has been awarded a Phase I SBIR from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for their project, “Novel Fluorescent Biosensors to Continuously Visualize Real-Time Protein Phosphorylation in Live Cells”. This project will focus on developing technology that would enable detection of phosphorylation continuously in real time within living cells and able to adapt to multiple kinases.

Protein phosphorylation is essential in orchestrating the myriad aspects of cell function. Kinases, which phosphorylate proteins, are encoded by 2% of the human genome and are critically involved in diverse conditions such as cancer, metabolic disorders and neurodegeneration. Current tools for detecting cellular phosphorylation are limited because most tools examine this process at a single time point or in cell lysates, or are restricted to single kinases. Lucidicor Inc. has developed a technology, PhosFluorTM, an extensively engineered protein that fluoresces robustly only when phosphorylated. Currently, this is the only fluorescent protein to date with this property. By engineering substrate recognition sites into PhosFluor, this molecule can be converted into a biosensor for the activity of virtually any protein kinase. Using PhosFluor, Lucidicor has already created and validated biosensors for Protein Kinase A (PKA), cyclin- dependent kinases (cdks), and Src-family kinases. A 700% change in the fluorescence of PhoFluor biosensors is observed when cells are stimulated physiologically. By contrast, dual-color fluorescent protein biosensors that utilize FRET (Förster Resonance Energy Transfer) exhibit a small 25-30% change in overall fluorescence during a physiological stimulus. The higher responsiveness of PhosFluor greatly optimizes fluorescence detection and signal/noise, which are essential for consistently accurate measurements within cells.

Lucidicor Inc. envisions that the utility of their PhosFluor will be greatly enhanced if it is integrated with other methods. Specifically, integration of PhosFluor with advanced microscopy would allow precise visualization and measurement of the spatio-temporal action of kinases. Integration with viral transduction would permit analyses of kinase activity in diverse cell types, which in turn has potential in diagnostics or drug discovery. In Phase II, they plan to extend the utility of our biosensors to neurons, primary cells, and human specimens. PhosFluor's low background and high signal/noise lends itself to high throughput applications, such as the capture of information in microscopy-based high content screening. Collectively, this will enable creation of a kinome toolbox that can be used by basic and clinical investigators, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Active Energy Systems awarded NSF Grant

InteliSpark client, Active Energy Systems, Inc. has been awarded a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project, “Grid-scale electricity storage from waste heat”. This project will focus on significantly lowering the cost and expanding the number of addressable markets for ice thermal energy storage.

Cost effectively storing energy is imperative to a sustainable future. Storage can provide reliable access to power from intermittent renewable sources, increase the resiliency of grid to weather events or terrorist attacks, and increase the utilization efficiency of existing assets, deferring costly upgrades. Today, ice thermal storage systems help building owners shift cooling loads from costly peak hours to when electricity is less expensive. Unfortunately, the upfront cost of these systems, driven by the large cost of the cooling coil used to generate ice, prevents adoption from many users and has unduly restricted the number of addressable markets for ice thermal storage. Elimination of ice buildup on the cooling coil would reduce the size of the coil, and more importantly significantly lower the cost of these systems.

Low-cost ice thermal energy storage could greatly improve the economics for long-duration energy storage technologies such as pumped thermal energy storage. Active Energy Systems will use the grant funding to translate the discovery of surfaces with zero ice adhesion into a cooling coil that can be integrated into a functioning ice thermal energy storage system. They plan to systematically prototype and refine various plate and tube-based cooling coil geometries, measuring the freezing and melting heat transfer efficiencies. They will also test different formulations of the surface coating. The most promising candidate geometries will be charged and discharged over multiple cycles as a part of an ice thermal energy storage system. The results from cycling will be compared to conventional ice-on-coil technology using metrics such as energy density and heat transfer efficiency. An ice shedding cooling coil, at less than a third of the size of an ice-on-coil system, is expected to deliver improved cooling performance. Demonstration of an ice shedding cooling coil in a functioning ice thermal energy storage system will prove the technology’s readiness to scale.

Mosaic Microsystems wins NSF Grant

InteliSpark client Mosaic Microsystems LLC, has been awarded a Phase I SBIR grant from the NSF for their project, “Manufacturable Implementation of Thin Glass for Next Generation Electronics Packaging”. The focus of this project will be on enabling processing thin glass substrates for next generation communications and packaging needs that will allow for faster communications with improved power efficiency.

There is an ever-expanding need for data, due to technologies such as mobile communications, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the shift of communication to higher frequencies. As the frequency increases, traditional material choices, such as silicon, can experience very high losses and therefore there is increasing interest in using insulating materials, such as glass, to improve power efficiency. Additionally, as device size is also important, ability to process thin materials is critical. Therefore, Mosaic Microsystems has set out to enable cost-effective processing of thin glass substrates and enable next generation communication initiatives impacting commercial, military and industrial markets.

There has been great interest in using glass for next generation RF and packing solutions for many years due to its advantageous material properties, and scalability. There has been a lot of progress in establishing processes to form thin glass and make precision through glass via (TGV), as well as demonstrated advantaged functional performance in a lab environment. However, there has been a challenge to establish the ability to scale to high volume for thin glass solutions due to gaps in the supply chain. Mosaic Microsystems will provide effort to establish a process that enables a carrier solution using a silicon carrier that will allow processing of glass in existing infrastructure making thing glass solutions available to the current well established and capable supply chain.

Exotanium Inc. Awarded Phase I SBIR Grant from NSF

InteliSpark client Exotanium, Inc. has been awarded a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project, “X-Containers: Fast, Secure Containers for a Cloud-Native World”. Their project will focus on improving security of cloud computing while still maintaining performance and cost efficiency.

Cloud computing has proven to be a disruptive technology in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Furthermore, the application container market is a rapidly growing segment of this sector. Containers provide a simpler and more efficient apparatus to host applications in the cloud, however, they do pose problems such as weak security isolation, low kernel compatibility, and poor kernel customization. The issue of security is most prominent because one infected kernel can affect a multitude of containers. Currently, all organizations that have adopted container applications have been required to independently ensure their own security. One study found that a majority ran containers on top of virtual machines for security isolation, which then sacrifices performance and cost efficiency of the containers.

Exotanium proposes to provide a container architecture that supports greater security without sacrificing performance and cost efficiency. They plan to improve usability, security, and efficiency of a novel software application container architecture so that it can be easily deployed and evaluated by customers. The focus on the Phase I project will be to address limitations and challenges through five major objectives support Docker and Kubernetes ecosystem compatibility; improve automatic binary optimization coverage; re-design the platform to avoid open-source license violations; further improve security; develop an automatic installation tool and a product demonstration.

Mednet wins NSF Grant

InteliSpark client Mednet, Inc. has been awarded a grant from the NSF for their Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I project, “An Online Peer-to-Peer Resource for Oncologists to Improve Clinical Trial Knowledge and Enrollment”. Mednet will focus on putting forth a solution to the problem of clinical trial enrollment. They will do so by improving awareness of clinical trials with physicians through technology that matches physician questions to relevant clinical trials via an online interactive social decision platform.

Currently, patient enrollment is significantly weak in the development pipeline and a pain point for organizations that sponsor clinical trials. More than two-thirds of trials sites reportedly fail to meet enrollment goals for a given trial, and up to 45% of study delays are due to enrollment difficulties. Lost revenues can be accounted for nearly $1 million per day. Clinical trials are a critical link between scientific discovery and changes in clinical practice that advance prevention, treatments, and cures for diseases and disability. Awareness of trials among physicians is key to increasing clinical trial enrollment, which furthermore is essential in advancing health care practice as well as patient health and quality of life.

Mednet plans to address this problem by use of their innovation, combining a credible online social platform with powerful natural language processing technology and machine learning techniques to deliver customized clinical trial information to physicians in their decision-making process. With the grant money from the NSF, Mednet will be able to build a prototype to match clinical trial information to relevant physician questions, and conduct a pilot assessment of clinical trial knowledge pre- and post-use. They will create natural language processing (NLP) technology to match clinical questions to related clinical trials so that physicians learn about clinical trials at the time they are seeking information on how to best treat their patients. The success of their Phase I project will result in a user-friendly platform that matches clinical questions to oncologists and relevant, open clinical trials, and will establish the technical and commercial feasibility of their concept.

Molecular Glasses wins NSF Grant

InteliSpark client, Molecular Glasses, Inc. has been awarded a Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project, “Non-crystallizable charge transporting organic materials as OLED functional layers and thermally activated delayed fluorescence emitter-layer hosts”. In this project, Molecular Glasses will set out to accelerate the commercialization of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. OLED is surperior to all existing technologies for color displays (e.g. TV, cell phone, computer, virtual reality, watches, etc.) in terms of energy use, display color space, and viewing angle to name a few.

OLED fixtures use very low energy, soft lightening, cast no shadow, and is architecturally flexible. However, the cost and short device lifetime has slowed commercial advancement of the product. Molecular Glasses proposed to reduce OLED cost and improve performance by utilizing a new class of photoelectric materials for the nanometer thick layers that comprise an OLED. OLED layers utilize single-component small molecules for the charge transporting and light-emitting layers. These molecules tend to crystallize and are poor solvents for the emitting molecules, causing to decrease light emission efficiency and ultimately shorten device lifetime. Molecular Glasses plans to use isomeric mixtures of designed molecules that are amorphous and non-crystallizable in all three layers. These molecules are chemically designed to meet all the required photophysical and electrical characteristics necessary for superior OLED performance. Due to the physics of charge recombination in the emitter layer there is only one technology which has the potential to harvest 100% of the injected charge as emitted light: thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF). This project will couple the new non-crystallizable technology with TADF to design and fabricate OLED devices with both high efficiency and long life to meet commercialization requirements.

Ascribe Bioscience wins NSF Grant

InteliSpark client, Ascribe Bioscience, Inc. has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their project, “Controlling plant pathogens with novel seed treatments based on nematode-produced ascarosides”. In this Phase I project, Ascribe Bioscience will set out to develop a seed treatment technology for plants, based on small naturally occurring molecules proven to activate natural defenses against a wide range of agriculturally important pathogens. The goal of this project is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture by reducing the use of potentially harmful pesticides and significantly enhance food security worldwide.

Ascribe Bioscience’s proposed innovation will address the need to adjust crop production and distribution to feed a projected world population of over 9 billion people in 2050, by providing an alternative effective method for managing transmissible diseases in major crops. Ascribe’s innovation of plant protectant is active at very low concentrations, can be readily synthesized in large quantities, and is biodegradable and non-toxic. In addition, the dependence on existing agrochemicals such as copper, synthetic fungicides and antibiotics will be reduced, as will the rate of resistance development.

With the grant money from the NSF, Ascribe will attempt to develop a novel control for plant pathogens by leveraging a class of small, naturally occurring molecules that elicit specific immune responses in plants. In their Phase I project, they will develop a seed-coating formulation capable of long-term stability and efficacy, without adverse effect on seed germination or natural microbe/insect populations. They will focus on optimizing the synthesis of the compound of interest, and develop a stable commercially viable formulation that is effective across a breadth of crops. The seed product developed will establish technical and economic feasibility of using small-molecule signals to activate plant immune responses and demonstrate their utility to improve economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture.

Comake, Inc. wins NSF SBIR Grant

InteliSpark client, Comake, Inc. has been awarded a SBIR Phase I grant by the National Science Foundation. Their project focuses on enhancing economic growth and innovation, by increasing a worker’s knowledge and ease of access to digital information that is relevant to his/her work.

Businesses today are enormously dependent on the archives of files, communication, and other information contained within systems and services such as network drives, cloud storage, messaging tools, e-mail, to name a few. As these archives grow, they become more difficult to standardize and organize. Resultantly, employees waste great amounts of time trying to locate files and information across complex directories and communication channels.

Centralizing access to files, with an easily searchable and flexible workspace would have the potential to save hours of lost productivity and seemingly duplicate efforts per knowledge worker per week. More so, presenting relevant context around each file and message including other file-versions, related files, discussions, activity events, etc. can help workers with better version control and a better understanding of how projects/ideas unfold.

In their Phase I project, Comake will seek to develop a novel method to address the need stated above. They will develop a software that can automatically map the relationships between digital workflow components, and store them in discrete private databases controlled by the users. Overall, they will construct a method for users to contextually and unobtrusively access all relevant files and information associated with their work. The outcome will ultimately be a new type of software platform that can be hosted in private instances and improves the productivity of its users.

Zymtronix Catalytic Systems, Inc. Awarded NIH Grant

InteliSpark client, Zymtonix Catalytic Systems, has been awarded a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for their project “A High-Throughput Cell-Free Profiling Platform Integrating High Metabolic Diversity for Chemical Safety Assessment”.

Each year, there are roughly 2,000 new drugs and chemicals that meet the safety requirements of regulators (e.g. the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and are commercialized. Early screening for unsafe compounds to “fail fast” are essential to research and development programs, prior to animal or human testing. In vitro toxicity assays are the primary method of screening, yet they are unable to assess the contribution of potentially toxic metabolites that the body produces from otherwise safe parent chemicals. Therefore, the integration of metabolic profiling into toxicity screening is crucial to chemical risk, exposure and drug safety assessments.

The cytochrome P450 (CYP) family is one of the most important families of enzymes for human metabolism. About 75% of all xenobiotics and drugs are metabolized in the liver. Using the function of CYPs and other metabolic families in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics are crucial to increasing the safety of drugs and increasing their development. Current methods mimic liver physiology, yet there are drawbacks such as limited incubation time and metabolite production, the need to statistically evaluate significant background metabolomes, and complex quality control challenges in cell handling techniques.

With their grant funding, Zymtronix will be able to develop a novel, cell-free technology that offers increased metabolite production, enzyme specific metabolomes with little background, and improved quality control, allowing for reduced cost and ease-of-use. They will then move onto Phase II research to explore a larger number of chemical substrates with an expanded set of CYPs/UGTs to determine a critical set of metabolic enzymes that produce a diverse and physiologically relevant metabolome.

Quadrant Biosciences Inc. awarded $2 million Phase II grant

InteliSpark client, Quadrant Biosciences, Inc. has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for $2 million from the National Institute of Health (NIH). Their project will continue work from their phase I project, on the refinement and commercialization of an epigenetic autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnostics test, that has been claimed by one NIH proposal reviewer to be “game changing”.

Currently, it is found that approximately 1 out of 59 American children are diagnosed with ASD. This disorder affects their communication and social skills. It also is often seen to cause repetitive patterns and a narrow range of interests in the person. Though a cause for ASD has yet to be determined, early detection can help to significantly improve the lives of those affected. Therefore, Quadrant Biosciences has addressed this by developing an epigenetic test to facilitate early diagnosis, and furthermore accelerating access to treatment.

Quadrant Biosciences’ Phase I study found their diagnostic technology to surpass 85% accuracy; which was found studying more than 500 children ages 18 months – 6 years old utilizing RNA features to differentiate children with ASD from peers with typical development or development delay. The phase II project will expand the study to 5 different academic medical center locations, and involve the recruitment of 750 additional children.