Roundup: Strata Oncology, Genomenon, Gilbert Family Foundation, More
Spring is always a busy time for Michigan’s innovation community, so let’s catch up on recent tech and entrepreneurial news below:
—Last year, we reported on the Gilbert Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert and his wife Jennifer, and its initiative to develop gene therapy treatments for neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1). In April, the foundation announced a new gene therapy research effort: an $11 million vision restoration initiative, which is focused on preventing further vision loss in NF1 patients with mild vision impairment and returning sight to patients with significant vision loss. Researchers from a variety of institutions, including Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University, will be involved in the project.
In December, the foundation said it was spending $12 million on an initiative to develop new treatments that target the underlying genetic abnormalities in NF1, a disorder that can result in bone and cartilage disorders called skeletal dysplasias, as well as the formation of nervous system tumors, potentially leading to disfigurement, cancer, and blindness. There are currently no FDA-approved treatments to prevent or stop the tumors associated with NF1.
—Ann Arbor’s Strata Oncology has embarked on a new clinical development partnership with Hayward, CA’s Arcus Biosciences, Strata said in a press release. The companies will use Stata’s technology to evaluate AB122, an Arcus antibody drug developed to block PD-1, a protein that some cancers use to evade detection by the immune system. The drug will be evaluated by Strata’s Precision Oncology Network, health systems that use a Strata test to pre-screen advanced cancer patients and quickly enroll them in clinical trials.
—ToDoolie, a startup connecting homeowners in need of chores done and students they can pay to do them, has raised $75,000 from Wayne State University’s Anderson Institute. The company, which was started by three WSU students and incubated in TechTown Detroit’s DTX program, also reports that it received $7,500 from the 2019 Bunker Labs pitch competition and won $2,000 at Wayne State’s STEAM Challenge.
—Ann Arbor-based Genomenon, creator of the Mastermind genomic search engine, won best in show at last month’s Bio-IT World conference in Boston. The company says it was one of 31 products competing for the award, which “recognizes the best of innovative product solutions for the life sciences industry, as judged by a panel of experts from academia, industry, pharma, and biotech.”
—OPS Solutions, the Wixom-based industrial technology startup, has been granted a new patent, the company says. The patent combines wearable headset hardware with the company’s augmented reality tool, Light Guide Systems, which aims to improve manufacturing and assembly processes by providing audio and visual prompts, guidance, pacing, and direction.
—The Michigan Corporate Relations Network, a state-funded economic development organization to facilitate partnerships between Michigan’s corporations and the state’s university assets, has launched a new online portal. In a press release, the MCRN said the portal is meant to act as an entry point for industry to identify current projects and ongoing research. The portal also aggregates innovation data from Michigan’s 15 public institutions, including patents, publications, grants, and clinical trials.
— In partnership with Ashoka, an organization that finds and invests in social entrepreneurs, GM recently hosted a STEM for Changemaking Challenge, in which high school students from across the country showcased social entrepreneurship projects they started to improve their schools and communities. GM awarded $30,000 to 25 students to advance their projects, including Detroit’s Anna Sun, who is working to inspire and teach students who are historically underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through coding, 3D printing classes, and the creation of children’s books. Anna’s project submission is here, and you can watch an archived version of the event’s livestream here.
—The Michigan Council of Women in Technology will host its annual Executive Connection Summit on May 29 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. The event brings together IT experts, students, and technologists for panel discussions and networking, and will feature keynotes by Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female coach, and Dhivya Suryadevara, GM’s chief financial officer. For tickets and details, click here.