February 2016 News Wrap-up from the Georgia Research Alliance

2 GRA Ventures companies get 
NSF investment 

The National Science Foundation this month built on its earlier investments in a pair of GRA Ventures companies by awarding new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to each. A $750,000 grant to Zyrobotics will help continue the company's work in developing assistive technology for children with special needs. The startup was launched out of Georgia Tech in 2013 by Ayanna Howard. NSF also made its third SBIR investment in StarMobile by awarding a $500,000 grant. StarMobile, which has also received investment from GRA Venture Fund, LLC, develops technology that extends enterprise software such as SAP and Salesforce to mobile devices.  
More on Zyrobotics grant >
StarMobile CEO Todd Fryburger looks ahead >

Universities explore ways to combat the Zika virus

Even before the World Health Organization formally declared the Zika virus an international health emergency on Feb. 16, scientists at Georgia’s universities were at work investigating ways to prevent and treat the virus.

Transmitted primarily by the mosquitoes that also spread dengue fever and related viruses — the Aedes mosquito, an aggressive daytime biter — the Zika virus is expected to afflict as many as 4 million people in the Americas by the end of this year.

At the University of Georgia, GRA Eminent Scholar Ted Ross is leading a research collaboration with GeoVax Labs, a clinical stage biotech company launched out of Emory University in 2006. 

The collaboration is focusing on developing vaccines based on virus-like particles, or VLPs. GeoVax employs a novel platform technology to produce VLPs in the person being vaccinated, rather than the vaccine itself; and Ross’ research team has deep experience in VLP-based vaccines. His lab will develop and test vaccines as well as well as the vaccine approach engineered by GeoVax.

Also at UGA, GRA Eminent Scholar Ralph Tripp is partnering with three top scientists at Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brasil to develop new ways to combat the Zika threat.

Meanwhile, two drug development enterprises inside Emory University are working to identify and develop new antiviral treatments of the infection brought on by the Zika virus — with investment from GRA.

Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE) and the Emory Institute for Drug Development are building on earlier progress developing antivirals against alphaviruses, such as chikungunya, and flaviviruses, such as dengue. Not only are they applying knowledge from  earlier research — they have also made progress developing an assay to rapidly screen Emory’s library of drug compounds to evaluate their potential to fight Zika.

   • More on the UGA-GeoVax collaboration >
   • More about Emory's Zika-fighting endeavors >

GRA Ventures start-ups shine in the limelight

A pair of industry organizations bestowed high honors in February on three young companies that GRA Ventures helped launch out of Georgia Tech. Axion Biosystems was designated a New Product Award winner at the annual meeting of SLAS, a 20,000-member global community of scientists from academia, government and industry. Two of Axion’s products, Lumos and Maestro APEX, competed against 40 other entrants. And the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) named Pointivo and Urjanet (also a GRA Venture Fund, LLC portfolio company) to its celebrated “Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies” in Georgia. 
• More on Axion's big win >
• More about the TAG awards >

Pew study probes scientists' views on work, issues

Scientists in the U.S. do not see themselves as sequestered in the lab, isolated from discourse about public policy — in fact, quite the opposite, a new study has found. A survey of nearly 4,000 scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) showed that 87 percent agree that “scientists should take an active role in public policy debates” about science and technology issues. Conducted by the Pew Research Center, the study also found that eight out of 10 scientists believe that news coverage of science fails to distinguish between findings that are well-founded and those that are not. And half say the simplification of findings “is a major problem for science.” 
More on the study >

Neurotrack nets $6.5M investment, unveils product

A new test for evaluating patients at risk for cognitive decline is the first product to be unveiled by Neutrotrack, a company launched out of Emory University and supported by GRA Ventures. The digital test, called Imprint, is built on 30 years of research led by Dr. Stuart Zola and is now being used by a number of prominent research institutions. Also this month: Four venture funds made a combined $6.5 million investment in Neutrotrack. The funding round — led by Khosla Ventures and supported by Social Capital, Founders Fund, AME Cloud Ventures and iSeed Ventures — will help accelerate additional research, product development and recruiting. • More about Neurotrack's developments >
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