Four Science and Technology Startups Awarded $6.2 Million

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The Oklahoma Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) fund approved four research projects for $6.2 million total funding disbursement.

Four medical therapy and device companies in Oklahoma were awarded grants on Tuesday totalling $6.2 million to help commercialize their research. The Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) policy board approved:

AliveCor, Inc. received $1.5 million. AliveCor has developed a credit card-sized, wireless device that turns smartphones and tablets into clinical-quality, low-cost heart monitors that can be used by patients at home and by physicians and other healthcare providers in a clinical setting. EDGE funding will allow the company to gain clinical validation and FDA approval, launch the technology in the U.S. and global markets and scale the product for different computing platforms, specific professions and languages. The principal investigator is David Albert, M.D.

Heparinex, LLC received $1.6 million. Many drugs are difficult or painful to use. Heparinex and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have discovered a drug delivery technology that uses sugar-polymers to more safely and effectively deliver drugs that are currently on the market to treat cancer and genetic disorders. EDGE funding will allow Heparinex to produce the key material in large scale manufacturing. The principal investigator is Paul DeAngelis, Ph.D.

Altheus Therapeutics, Inc. received $1.6 million. Altheus Therapeutics, Inc. is developing a drug therapy for the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The award will help the company complete a key clinical study and enter a partnership to commercialize the therapy. This new treatment, called Zoenasa, would have the potential to decrease suffering and provide a more active life to approximately 850,000 patients affected by IBD in the U.S. The principal investigator is Richard Harty, M.D.

“The EDGE grant award is a significant achievement for Altheus and its team members,” said Dr. Harty. “These funds will enable us to initiate and complete the Phase 2 study to further establish safety of Zoenasa and to provide evidence that Zoenasa works better than current therapy in treating ulcerative colitis in adult patients. The confidence that EDGE has expressed in Altheus will provide important credibility to potential investors as we move forward in developing Zoenasa to treat inflammatory bowel disease.”

Sigma Blood Systems, LLC received $1.5 million. Sigma Blood Systems will develop a software suite that will allow blood centers and cell therapy manufacturers to automate data collection for manufacturing and quality assurance. The award will help the company develop and validate the software and make it commercially available by 2013. The software will allow blood and cell therapy centers to complete the cycle from donor recruitment to blood and cell products available for patient transfusions. Additionally, it will save blood banks and cell therapy manufacturers significant hours of processing that is currently completed manually to meet regulatory guidelines. The principal investigator is Max Doleh.

The 2011 awards represent the fourth round of funding disbursements from the EDGE fund. In 2010, three awards were granted totaling nearly $5.4 million. In 2009, five awards were granted totaling nearly $7.5 million. In 2008, five awards were granted totaling nearly $10.5 million.
The projects funded in the first two full years have created and retained 266 jobs in Oklahoma and have attracted federal grants and commercial contracts totaling over $23.4 million.

“We’re already seeing results from only two years of EDGE funds. These four new research projects represent incredible opportunities for Oklahoma to increase the formation and growth of advanced technology companies and bring more federal research dollars into our state,” said Dr. Paul Risser, executive director of the EDGE Policy Board. “We didn’t have funding for all of the projects that had merit, and we can’t overlook the need to grow the EDGE Endowment Fund to its full $1 billion total. At that level, we will be able to support many more of the top-tier projects that are going unfunded. Obviously the more innovation and technology EDGE can fund, the more businesses, jobs and wealth we’ll be able to create for Oklahoma.”

Established in 2004, the mission of EDGE is to bolster Oklahoma’s long-term economic growth by investing the earnings from the EDGE endowment in the state’s knowledge infrastructure. EDGE investments are specifically directed toward Oklahoma-based projects that have the potential to expand the number of researchers, technicians, support services and related activity within the state; increase the formation and growth of advanced technology companies; leverage additional funding through federal research grants or private investment; and improve the health and quality of life for Oklahoma.

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