Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today applauded the decision by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to award a $300,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to mAbDx Inc., a Eugene-based immunodiagnostics company.
The company, a University of Oregon spin-off, was founded in 2011 by former UO researcher Michael Marusich, PhD.
The award will allow mAbDx to accelerate development of an easy-to-use, point-of-care diagnostic test for the Zika virus. Marusich has established an approach to isolate key components that can identify Zika without confusing it with other very similar viruses such as Dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. mAbDx is now using these Zika-specific antibodies to make a simple device, similar to commonly used home pregnancy test kits, that can detect Zika in a single drop of blood. The test requires no special training or equipment and results are visible to the naked eye within minutes.
“A small federal investment like an SBIR grant can make a big difference in advancing local innovation and making a positive global impact,” said Rep. DeFazio. “This kind of knowledge-based economic activity is more prevalent than many realize, creating jobs and prosperity for our region.”
“Many innovations derived from research discoveries, including this powerful diagnostic tool from mAbDx, provide both economic rewards as well as important human health benefits,” said David Conover, UO’s vice president for research and innovation. “We congratulate the company on this well-deserved grant, which will enable the firm to accelerate the development of this potentially life-saving technology.”
“Early diagnosis is essential for faster, more effective therapies and to help limit the spread of Zika,” Marusich said. “This breakthrough in developing a simple, rapid test to diagnose this dangerous emerging disease will have an immediate positive impact on healthcare world-wide.”
SBIR grants, which are peer reviewed and highly competitive, are intended to help small businesses bridge the gap between basic science and commercialization of new discoveries and technologies. This successful Phase I award recognizes that mAbDx’s test will be a significant advance over existing technologies and will transform current diagnostic practices by providing those at risk with immediate access to affordable diagnostic test results, even in resource-limited settings.
mAbDx is housed in a private, custom-built biotechnology lab in the Lewis Integrative Science Building at the University of Oregon as part of company incubator space sponsored in part by Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).