The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Chosen Diagnostics Inc, a spin-out company, a $299,641 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer award. Based on an LSU Health New Orleans research breakthrough, the award will advance the development and commercialization of a noninvasive diagnostic biomarker test for necrotizing enterocolitis invented by Sunyoung Kim, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. The principal investigator for the grant award is Rebecca Buckley PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
According to the National Institutes of Health, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a life-threatening illness almost exclusively affecting neonates. NEC has a mortality rate as high as 50%. Inflammation of the intestine leads to bacterial invasion causing cellular damage and cell death, which causes necrosis of the colon and intestine. As NEC progresses, it can lead to intestinal perforation, causing peritonitis, sepsis, and death. To date, no clinical test has been established as the gold standard to diagnose NEC. X-rays are now used to diagnose advanced disease, but their sensitivity can be as low as 44%.
“This gut disease is one of great concern in Louisiana, as it has one of the highest rates of premature birth in the country,” noted Kim. “NEC disproportionately affects African American infants, and in Louisiana, the preterm birth rate among black women is higher than the rate among all other women.”
The award will fund a collaboration between Chosen Diagnostics Inc and LSU Health New Orleans. Besides Kim, members of the LSU Health New Orleans research team include neonatologist Brian Barkemeyer, MD, professor of pediatrics; Duna Penn, MD, emeritus professor of pediatrics; Anne Tufton, MD, pediatrics fellow at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine; as well as Zhide Fang, PhD, professor and Director of Biostatistics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health.
“We are grateful for the collaboration between LSU Health New Orleans schools of Medicine and Public Health, and the hospitals in the New Orleans area,” Kim adds. “Being able to conduct one of the largest prospective clinical studies of premature infants yet, this partnership lays the foundation for solutions to help alleviate this devastating gut disease of these most vulnerable babies.”
According to the Small Business Association, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) is a program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. The unique feature of the STTR program is the requirement for the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II. STTR's most important role is to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations.