SBIR Phase II Grant Brings Company’s NSF Awards Total to Nearly $1 Million
Aperiomics has won its second award in a year through the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This new SBIR Phase II grant of nearly $737,000 follows earlier feasibility funding from the NSF through Phase I and Phase Ib grants intended to help early-stage companies fund research and development. With the new award, Aperiomics has received nearly $1 million in support from the NSF. The SBIR program aims to make entrepreneurial science companies more attractive to investors and to future strategic partners and customers by reducing risk.
Phase II awards are designed to allow companies to focus on scale and development in the process of bringing their product or service to market. For Aperiomics, the grant will mean further development of next-generation sequencing analytics for infectious diseases. The company combines genomics and informatics in an innovative way to produce faster and more accurate results than culture-based or even other molecular-based diagnostic approaches. This efficient system translates into improved human and livestock health, reduced risk to public health, and significant health care cost savings.
From a single test, Aperiomics can simultaneously test for all pathogens whether bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite. The sample can be tissue, blood, plant matter, animal or environmental. The company’s unique process capitalizes on high-throughput next-generation sequencing and advanced Bayesian statistics. Their system not only finds the “needle in the haystack,” but also can reveal that “a needle” is lurking there – even if it is a formerly unknown pathogen.
In a climate of international concern about such public health threats as Ebola, influenza, and drug resistant infections, Aperiomics offers breakthrough capabilities in pathogen discovery. Their technology provides diagnoses in difficult cases of unknown etiology, pathogen surveillance, and monitoring of livestock and of natural animal populations, as well as more routine pathogen detection. It could be a life-saving tool for physicians who are forced by long lab processing times to rely on differential diagnoses while treating a critically ill patient and it could help prevent over-use of antibiotics as a provider tries various types in hopes that one will prove effective quickly enough. As Aperiomics CEO Crystal Icenhour, PhD, observes, “The majority of pathogens are currently never identified; upwards of 75% go undiagnosed, leading to significant issues within public health.”
Based in Sterling, VA, Aperiomics was founded in October 2013 as the result of a collaboration by three of the firm’s co-founders, a team including some of the best minds in genomics and bioinformatics, and was a spinoff from the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Sterling. In November 2014, the firm announced the launch of its first commercial services. In addition to the company’s support from the National Science Foundation’s SBIR and iCORP programs, it also has received CRCF funding from the Center for Innovative Technologies of Herndon, VA, and private investments.
For more information, please visit www.aperiomics.com or look for the company on LinkedIn, Twitter and AngelList.
Crystal R Icenhour, PhD – Chief Executive Officer: Crystal R Icenhour, PhD received her doctorate in Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine from the University of Cincinnati Medical School of Graduate Studies in 2002. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Thoracic Diseases Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine from 2002-2005 and in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center from 2005-2006. Dr. Icenhour has held leadership positions in local and national postdoctoral associations including the Mayo Research Fellows Association Executive Committee (President), the Duke University Postdoctoral Association (chair of membership committee), and the National Postdoctoral Association (2008 Chair). Dr. Icenhour was President & Chief Science Officer for Phthisis Diagnostics, a biotechnology company located in Charlottesville, Virginia from 2007-2013. In 2014 Dr. Icenhour was recruited as cofounder and CEO of Aperiomics.
Keith A. Crandall, PhD – President: Keith Crandall is a cofounder of Aperiomics and Director of the Computational Biology Institute at the George Washington University. A prolific researcher, Dr. Crandall has published over 220 papers and 3 books, including “The Evolution of HIV” published by Johns Hopkins University Press. In 2010, he was designated a “Highly Cited” researcher, a distinction reserved for the top one-half of one percent of all publishing scholars. His research covers subjects ranging from the evolution of HIV and other infectious diseases to bacterial genome evolution to the biogeography of freshwater crayfish. Dr. Crandall was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University, a recent recipient of the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award, and was recently elected as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Crandall earned his BA degree in Mathematics and Biology from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan and MA (Statistics) and PhD (Biology and Biomedical Sciences) from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Puyo, Ecuador.
Evan Johnson, PhD – Chief Technology Officer: Evan Johnson is a cofounder and CTO for Aperiomics. He is currently an assistant professor of Medicine, Biostatistics, and Bioinformatics at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson’s research is focused on the development and application of statistical and computational methodology for the analysis and integration of Big Data generated from biological samples. His work has led to discovery and publications in a wide variety of applications including molecular genetics, cancer, and pathogen detection. He has also developed several widely used analytical methods and software for analyzing high-throughput genetic, genomic, and epigenomic profiling datasets. Dr. Johnson received a BS degree in Mathematics at Southern Utah University, an MS degree in Statistics at Brigham Young University, and MA and PhD degrees in Biostatistics from Harvard University.
Eduardo Castro-Nallar, PhD – Chief Science Officer: Eduardo Castro-Nallar is a cofounder and CSO for Aperiomics. He received his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile and his PhD from the Biological Sciences PhD program at The George Washington University. Dr. Castro-Nallar has extensive experience in microbiology and microbiological techniques as well as molecular techniques associated with pathogen detection. He served as the head of the diagnostic lab in Diagnotec in Chile implementing international quality certifications (ISO 9001/17025) and developing diagnostic assays for the aquaculture and swine industries based on qPCR, cell culture, and immunofluorescence. During his graduate work, Dr. Castro-Nallar has studied population genetics, phylogenetics, genomics, and epidemiology of pathogens of public health importance. He is skilled in genetic analysis of genes and genomes, generation and analysis of high-throughput sequencing data on high-performance computing platforms.