Cary startup Atom Bioworks to join virtual BioTools Innovator accelerator program, compete for $250k

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Atom Bioworks, which has developed an AI software programmed with DNA to bind to virus and cancer cells so that they can be detected, then killed, is one of 14 startup companies selected for an accelerator based in Los Angeles, California.

Cary-headquartered Atom Bioworks will join BioTools Innovator to participate in the annual program, a four-month virtual offering that connects startups that develop life science tools and diagnostics with mentorship and support as well as funding opportunities.

Atom Bioworks and the 13 other cohort members were selected from more than 160 applications, the organization disclosed in a statement.

“We launched BioTools Innovator to fill a gap in the life science industry where promising technologies falter due to lack of sophisticated guidance that prevents entrepreneurs from making avoidable mistakes,” said Kathryn Zavala, managing director of BioTools Innovator, in the statement. “These 14 companies represent the next frontier of innovative technologies that will help us develop solutions to diagnose and treat diseases more effectively and live healthier.”

Throughout the accelerator program, Atom Bioworks will also prepare should the company be selected by BioTools to present during a final competition at the organization’s capstone event in October, where the winner will be awarded a $250,000 prize.

Building on prior research

Atom Bioworks co-founder Sherwood Yao told WRAL TechWire in March 2020 that the company’s technology might enable it to provide more accurate, versatile, and rapid testing for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  At that point, the technology was in the research stage, according to Yao.

At the time, the company planned to use artificial intelligence and synthetic DNA to create specific pattern-matching nanostructures from which to identify and treat coronaviruses, WRAL TechWire reported.

The company would go on to secure a $248,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in June 2020 under the Rapid Response Research program.  Yao noted in June 2020 that the DNA-based antigen detection method could recognize the biomarker of the  COVID-19 virus spike protein, providing a responsive mechanism to determine whether a patient has contracted SARS-CoV-2.

Yao told a reporter that the company’s process would be faster and simpler to run compared to other existing diagnostics that existed at the time.  He added that the company would continue research, with the next steps along the way leading, ultimately, to use the same technology platform to kill the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19.

“It’s a novel approach and it’s pretty exciting,” said Ken Janoski, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s senior director, investments, in June 2020.

The company landed $72,054.11 in additional funding in February 2021 through the One North Carolina Small Business Program to assist the development of this technology to create a rapid test for COVID-19.

Atom Bioworks has also received support from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Original Article Source: WRAL Techwire