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The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area
By Matt Evans, Staff Writer
A New Jersey firm is relocating to the Triad to commercialize technology discovered at Wake Forest University. The technology could speed up the drug discovery process by as much as 10,000 times, according to company and university officials.
NanoMedica, Inc. has leased office space in the Piedmont Triad Research Park and signed a license option with Wake Forest for a technology called "Lab-on-Bead" that makes use of tiny beads to match drugs to disease markers.
The technology was developed by Jed Macosko, an associate professor of physics at Wake Forest who now also serves as NanoMedica's chief innovation officer. Co-inventor and fellow Wake Forest physics associate professor Martin Guthold is chief science officer; the company's chief technology officer is physics department Chairman Keith Bonin.
Macosko said that in the Lab-on-Bead process, nanoscopic plastic beads are studded with chemical "pins" that match up to a unique molecular "barcode" associated with a drug candidate.
The beads allow for rapid matching between the proteins specific to a particular disease and a drug showing characteristics that may act on that disease. The effect, Macosko said, is that the Lab-on-Bead process could screen 10,000 times more molecules in search of good drug candidates as current robotics-based methods.
"It does that by miniaturizing everything and putting essentially a whole laboratory onto a bead, instead of having to do each individual reaction in its own test tube," Macosko said.
A peer-reviewed paper on the technology will be published in the Journal of Molecular Recognition, and the Wake Forest inventors are working with NanoMedica CEO and founder Roger Cubicciotti to bring Lab-on-Bead to market. Cubicciotti founded NanoMedica in 2001 in New Jersey but has now relocated himself and the company to Winston-Salem.
The deal with Wake Forest gives NanoMedica one year to work with the technology to determine market feasibility before committing to a license. The company first began working with the university in 2003, Cubicciotti said.
The commercial vision for Lab-on-Bead is to "discover more with less," he said. The company initially would partner with companies that hold enormous libraries of potential drug candidates to offer molecules that other firms could then try to develop into drugs. Big pharma companies could also pay to apply the technology to their own molecular libraries to efficiently narrow down the list of those worth further development.
NanoMedica is starting out as a small presence in Winston-Salem, with two technical employees so far besides its scientific principals. Cubicciotti said the company may have six employees by the first quarter of next year.
He moved his company because of its connection to Wake Forest but also because the state has done an excellent job supporting small companies like his that have the potential to grow, Cubicciotti said.
The N.C. Biotechnology Center, for example, provided $75,000 in funding for the research behind Lab-on-Bead.
"I've been extremely impressed by North Carolina's strategy in defining a unique signature at the crossroads of medicine and nanotechnology," he said. "It's impressive to see agencies focused not only on economic development, but also on attracting talent and fostering collaborations between companies and universities."
Cubicciotti singled out the Biotech Center's Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology for helping it navigate state resources and make introductions to other universities, including at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. The Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, or Coin, was started as a joint project of N.C. A&T, UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest to foster collaborations between industry and academics.
Brooks Adams, Coin's director, said his organization serves startups and companies like NanoMedica that are relocating to the area. He said he has invited Cubicciotti to join his board of directors.
"We're all about making resources in the state known to such people," Adams said. "There's no complete compendium available, so giving people a way to know about each other is a way to make things happen."
Adams said one of Coin's projects is to provide such a compendium online. A beta version of such a database is available now at the project's website, www.nc-coin.org.
CEO: Roger Cubicciotti
Address: 101 N. Chestnut St.
Phone: (336) 608-6010
For more information, please click here
Next Level Communications (www.nextlevelcom.net)
For Piedmont Triad Partnership (www.piedmonttriadnc.com)
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