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two subgroups of autism patients, one whose condition is associated with changes in small molecules in their gastrointestinal tract, and another with a link to changes in the urea cycle. (That’s the body’s process for removing nitrogen—a byproduct of proteins’ metabolism—from the blood and turning it into a compound called urea, which then exits the body through urination.)
Potential treatments for such patients might involve modified diets or drugs, used in tandem with behavioral therapy, Donley says. (That’s something that will have to be tested, and Stemina is already considering additional studies with CAMP subjects, she says.)
The 1,500-patient CAMP study will attempt to demonstrate that Stemina’s technology can accurately detect each of those two subgroups of autism, as well as discover more biomarkers associated with the disorder.
Eventually, the goal is to offer a panel of tests for a handful of autism subtypes that “will have predictive value and in totality can diagnose autism sooner,” Donley says.
Making those aspirations reality will require more money. Stemina is seeking $3 million more from investors, Donley says. Potential backers have told her they want to see additional data that validates the pilot studies, she adds.
Stemina’s venture capital push is part of the reason why the company started renting desk space in June at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, MA, she says. The decision is already paying off with valuable connections to possible investors, Donley says.
“There just isn’t the richness of funding and entrepreneurship out here in the Midwest,” Donley says, speaking on the phone from Madison. “It’s important to be where the funders are and people who are interested in this kind of work.”
Donley and other Stemina executives were already visiting the Boston area regularly because three of its board members and one of its backers, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, are based in the area. After establishing a more formal presence there, Donley says she spends roughly one week per month at the Cambridge co-working space.
Donley says Stemina will maintain its Madison operations and intends to house its laboratory there that would perform testing for the planned diagnostic products.