Startup’s new technology could create a faster, cheaper and better way to identify disease

Imagine waiting 36 hours for a lab report to determine if you have sepsis, a life-threatening infection that causes inflammation throughout the body.

The team of entrepreneurs at RiboDynamics, a UConn-affiliated startup, believe they can cut that wait time to two hours with their new medical technology that detects pathogens in biological material based on the presence of specific RNA biomarkers.

“This is a life-changing technology for both patients and healthcare professionals,” says Professor Dan Fabris from the Department of Chemistry. “This will allow patients to receive appropriate treatment without delay, thereby increasing the chance of a speedy recovery and hopefully avoiding a stay in the intensive care unit.” For hospitals and doctors, this results in faster diagnosis and significant savings – up to $70,000 per patient – ​​in terms of medical costs.”

The technology, which has been under development for the past 10 years, also holds promise for many other pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis C and COVID-19.

RiboDynamics identified as a promising startup

This year, RiboDynamics is participating in the School of Business’ Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI) Summer Fellowship. This program helps UConn-affiliated companies grow and move closer to market readiness.

RiboDynamics impressed the judges at the Summer Fellowship final and the company was invited to participate in the Wolff New Venture Competition and compete for a prize of $25,000. The event on Monday 3 October is the pinnacle entrepreneurial challenge organized by CCEI.

Limin Deng, a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, represented the company at the CCEI Summer Fellowship. She has a key role in the development of the technology and the company as a whole.

“I had to learn to transition from a scientist to a businessman,” says Deng. “In the beginning it was difficult to explain our work. We are trained to talk to other scientists and end users. We had to learn to explain our idea in very simple terms so that everyone could understand it.”

“The CCEI Summer Fellowship really helps startups enter the market. It’s a source of everything you need,” she says, adding that the camaraderie between all the entrepreneurs is strong and they’re always happy to share information and ideas.

RNA research before it became ‘popular’

Fabrice says he has been interested in RNA technology since the early 2000s, before it became popular in science and well known to the public through mRNA vaccines. He began this specific work as a faculty member at SUNY Albany and applied for a patent in 2006, which he later received.

“We have already demonstrated the ability to detect salmonella, listeria and E.coli in milk, as well as the Zika virus in mosquitoes,” he says. “We are now testing applications in human diagnostics of infectious diseases and other health conditions.”

The entrepreneurs are working with the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts to study how well the test works in patients who have recently had a hip replacement.

“We are very far ahead in the development of our technology and our company,” says Fabrice. “We’re at a point where we need investors and then focus on sales and marketing.”

“As evidenced by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector lacks reliable, high-throughput diagnostic techniques for pathogens and infectious diseases,” he says. “The earliest possible diagnostic results can improve the overall outcome of virtually any type of disease.”

The 2022 Wolff New Venture Competition will be held on October 3rd from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM at the Observation Deck at the Hartford Center for Advanced Business Studies. It will also be streamed live on : https://ccei.uconn.edu/wolff-new-venture-competition/. This event is open to the public.

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