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Environmental Factor, August 2015

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NIEHS small business innovation shines at biotech convention

By Sara Mishamandani

Ameen Razavi

Razavi represented Microvi at the event. (Photo courtesy of Ameen Razavi)

The Innovation Zone

The Innovation Zone included a tremendous range of organizations and provided an excellent opportunity for networking and partnership discussions. (Photo courtesy of Ameen Razavi)

At the BIO International Convention June 15-18 in Philadelphia, four NIEHS-funded small businesses were among the 35 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grantees selected to exhibit in the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Innovation Zone. Each year, the convention attracts about 15,000 biotech leaders from 65 countries, covering a wide spectrum of life science innovations.

The BIO Innovation Zone was an exhibit space dedicated to showcasing NIH and National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grantees, with a primary focus on biomedical technologies. The four NIEHS small business grantees chosen for the innovation exhibit were Microvi Biotechnologies, Giner Inc., TF Health Corporation, and Trevigen Inc..

Giner specializes in the development of proton exchange membrane-based electrochemical technologies; Trevigen focuses on a high-throughput platform to measure DNA damage and repair; and TF Health is developing a monitor to measure volatile organic compounds.

A spotlight on Microvi

In a space filled primarily with biomedical and pharmaceutical-oriented organizations, Microvi, a Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business grantee, was one of the few companies to focus on environmental cleanup.

“SRP was pleased to learn Microvi was chosen to showcase an environmental remediation application,” said Heather Henry, Ph.D., NIEHS SRP Health Scientist Administrator. “Their approach shows great promise to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water.” A suspected carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane is difficult to remove with conventional water treatment technologies.

“It was encouraging to find many organization representatives with not just knowledge of, but also interest in, bioremediation,” said Ameen Razavi, director of Innovation Research at Microvi, who represented the company at the convention. “We highlighted our 1,4-dioxane technology and our cometabolic remediation technology, and also discussed how our overall approach to water treatment is unique and novel.”

An innovative approach to remove 1,4 dioxane

As part of its NIEHS SRP-funded small business project, Microvi is developing a first-of-its-kind biological approach for 1,4-dioxane degradation. The technology, called MB-DX, uses microbes that degrade 1,4-dioxane effectively and reliably. The approach also overcomes common challenges to bioreactor performance, such as system stability and clogging. The company has successfully developed a prototype, which is now being scaled-up and piloted at a contaminated site.

“An interesting fact that resonated in our discussions was how closely the research and development in biomedical sciences can be integrated for bioremediation technologies,” said Razavi. “Many of the novel assays, metagenomics tools, real-time metabolite analyzers, and more were directly applicable to our work in ways that could only come through in such detailed, in-person discussions.”

(Sara Mishamandani is a research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)

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