Now in its third year, the Innovation Zone at the BIO 2016 International Convention (San Francisco, June 6-9) will host even more pioneering and transformational companies. The Innovation Zone was created through a partnership with the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the intent to group Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-funded companies together on the exhibit floor of the BIO International Convention. The partnership originated in 2014 with 35 companies; it grew to 75 companies in 2015 and this year it will host 100 companies.
The SBIR program provides U.S. federal funding to small businesses engaged in research and development with the potential for commercialization. Companies are rigorously vetted through the NIH and NSF SBIR review process prior to receiving the funding.
Today we spoke with Innovation Zone exhibitor, Anne Marie Quinn, Founder and CEO of Montana Molecular, which is supported by NSF’s SBIR program.
Montana Molecular’s lead products are fluorescent biosensors for use in drug discovery and basic research. Our sensors produce robust readouts in living cells for a drug’s mechanism of action.
BTN: How has the NSF SBIR program helped your company grow?
SBIR funding has supported the expansion of our technologies for screening GPCRs, the largest class of drug targets. Continued funding will support adaptation of our technologies to detect phosphodiesterase inhibitors.
BTN: What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?
Our immediate milestones are to continue growing assay sales and to attract new partners and investors. Our long term priority is to expand the tools that researchers need to understand the changes that happen when human cells respond to drugs. The more we learn about cell signaling, the more we realize that these signals are far more nuanced than we ever imagined. We want the BIO community to have better options for detecting biological effects of drugs - in pancreatic islets, neurons, cardiomyocytes, osteoblasts - before taking their lead compounds to the clinic.
BTN: What do you hope to gain out of your participation at the 2016 BIO International Convention?
Our mission is to connect with potential partners and investors. We are particularly interested in meeting with companies that make, use, or invest in iPSC technologies. Our functional assays can be stably integrated into these cells to create “assay ready” lines for lead validation in the cells that are relevant to disease.
BTN: Tell us something about your company that investors might not know.
At Montana Molecular, our intellectual property is progressing and it’s time to label our products with the familiar “patent pending” phrase, but do investors know that NSF can match up to $1M of their funds by 50%? Even so, we have been told that investors don’t like to come to Montana. Why is that? Montana Molecular is 10 minutes from BZN airport, near Big Sky resort, and Yellowstone National Park with direct flights to Denver, Minneapolis, SLC, Seattle, Las Vegas, and seasonally direct to Newark, Chicago, and Dallas. It’s incredibly beautiful here. Come visit us!