Advaita, the Plymouth, MI-based biotech startup spun out of technology developed at Wayne State University, has been selected to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP). The 18-month program provides mentoring, training, and consulting to help companies get their products to market. Only 60 companies nationwide are picked to participate in the CAP per cohort.
“This opens doors to a lot of industry contacts,” says Andrew Olson, Advaita’s vice president of business development. “In our minds, this continues to reinforce our technology and the need for it in the marketplace.”
Advaita was founded in 2005 by Sorin Draghici (pictured above), a computer science professor at Wayne State, though Olson says the work began in earnest in 2009. Advaita has developed software called Pathway-Guide that helps researchers and pharmaceutical companies understand the data generated during next-generation gene sequencing. The intellectual property behind the software was developed at Wayne State and is licensed by the company.
The algorithm employed by Pathway-Guide provides researchers with what Olson characterizes as the most sophisticated gene pathway analysis available, taking into account each type of gene and its position and role on each pathway. The advantage to Advaita’s software, Olson says, is that it eliminates the false positive results that are common with current methods of gene-sequencing analysis, noting that Advaita is the only company in the bioinformatics sector that focuses on pathway analysis rather than data curation.
Draghici says the traditional method of measuring gene expression—analyzing the differences in proteins in a DNA microarray or DNA sequence—is not a good way to try to understand disease. “Our software takes those differences and tells us where the genes went wrong,” he explains.
Advaita’s software has already garnered a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant from NIH worth $150,000; an STTR Phase II grant worth $2.2 million; and $125,000 from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund. Olson adds that Advaita is the first Wayne State spinout that has received an NIH CAP award.
Olson says the company is working on a new marketing campaign and selling version 2.03 of its software, though it hopes to have an even newer version available soon. The only downside to funding grants from the NIH is that they can’t be used for business development activities. Olson says that creates a need for outside funding. “We’re getting a lot of interest in the marketplace, so we’ll be pursuing some additional fundraising soon,” he adds.