Aperiomics Receives Second National Science Foundation SBIR Award


National Science Foundation

Aperiomics has been awarded a Phase IB grant through the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, bringing their current award total to nearly $180,000 from this program. The project, under the direction of Aperiomics Chief Science Officer Eduardo Castro-Nallar, PhD, is titled SBIR Phase I: Rapid Pathogen Diagnostics and Biosurveillance using Multiplexed High-throughput Sequencing.

 This SBIR program offers short-term feasibility grants ($150,000-225,000) to help early-stage companies fund research and development. As follow-up, additional funding is available through Phase II grants to allow companies to focus on scale and development in the process of bringing their product or service to market. Phase II grants are longer term and up to $750,000. Aperiomics will submit a Phase II grant proposal in the next funding cycle.

 A key objective for the SBIR program is to make entrepreneurial science companies more attractive to investors and to future partners and customers by reducing risk.

According to Aperiomics CEO Crystal Icenhour, PhD, “One of the added benefits to receiving this money is the ‘NSF seal of approval’ that can have a positive influence on strategic partners and investors. The grant also qualifies us for additional matching funds from the State of Virginia and the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation.”

 The Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 to improve human health by accelerating translational research through collaborations between Virginia research universities and industry. Funding focuses on bioinformatics and medical informatics, point of care diagnostics, and drug discovery and delivery.

 Aperiomics combines genomics and informatics in a novel way to produce faster and more accurate results than culture-based or even other molecular-based diagnostic approaches. From a single test, the company’s innovative technology can simultaneously test for all pathogens whether bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite. The sample can be tissue, blood, plant, animal, or environmental. The unique process capitalizes on high-throughput next-generation sequencing and advanced Bayesian statistics. This system not only finds the “needle in the haystack,” but also can reveal that “a needle” is lurking there even if it has never been seen before.

 With public health concerns ranging from influenza to Ebola, Aperiomics offers breakthrough capabilities in pathogen discovery, providing diagnoses in difficult cases of unknown etiology, pathogen surveillance, and monitoring of natural animal populations, as well as more routine pathogen detection. This technology platform has broad application across diverse markets including health care, agriculture, and industrial. As Dr. Icenhour explains, “The majority of pathogens are currently never identified. Thus, the advantages of accurate determination can be measured by improvements in human health, significant health care cost savings, and reduced risk to public health.”

 Aperiomics, based in Ashburn, Virginia, was founded in October 2013. In November 2014, the firm announced the launch of its first commercial services. So far, the company has received significant support through the National Science Foundation’s SBIR and iCORP programs and through CRCF funding from the Center for Innovative Technologies of Herndon, VA. Private funding is being sought to expand operations and service capacity. The technology behind Aperiomics’ services is the result of a collaboration by three of the firm’s co-founders, a team that includes some of the best minds in genomics and bioinformatics. 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.