A "Shark Tank"-like program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provided a springboard for the commercialization of a new technology that analyzes proteins within cells to improve disease diagnosis and the development of drug therapies.
Most known diseases are linked to dysfunction at the level of individual proteins within a cell. Sensors developed at NIST analyze the specific amino acids in a protein sequence through a process called proteomics, which is a more precise method than studying the genes that express those proteins (known as genomics).
The research team secured a Technology Maturation Accelerator Program (TMAP) award from NIST in 2019. TMAP is a process like television’s Shark Tank in which NIST researchers have a chance to pitch their technologies to a panel of venture capitalists and business experts. The winning team receives NIST funds for one year to get its project market-ready.
The protein-sequencing technology has been commercialized by Connecticut-based Quantum-SI. The Quantum-SI process is powered by a semiconductor chip like those found in millions of smartphones, so the protein analysis technology lends itself to being manufactured in large quantities.
Following the TMAP award, Quantum-SI negotiated an exclusive commercial license for the engineered protein reagents invention. In 2021, Quantum-SI merged with HighCape Capital Acquisition Corp to take the company public, for an estimated valuation of valuation of $1.46 billion.
Quantum SI executives said in May 2022 that the company was preparing to launch its Next Generation Protein Sequencing in the fall.
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