CT-Based Startup Biorasis Wins Big at MassChallenge

Glucowizzard implantable sensor (Photo provided by Jessica McBride)
Glucowizzard implantable sensor (Photo provided by Jessica McBride)

Connecticut-based medical device startup Biorasis recently was awarded the MassChallenge’s top prize at its annual awards ceremony. The company was one of only four “Diamond Winners,” receiving a cash prize of $100,000. It was also one of two teams to receive the Sidecar Award, providing an additional $200,000 in non-dilutive funding.

The technology developed by Biorasis, the GlucowizzardTM, is an ultra-small implantable biosensor for continuous, reliable glucose monitoring. This needle-implantable device wirelessly transmits glucose levels to a watch-like unit for real-time display, which in turn communicates with personal digital accessories like a smartphone. The device measures only 0.5 x 0.5 mm and vastly improves the quality of life for patients with diabetes. It eliminates the need for surgical sensor implantation and extraction, restores active lifestyle, and enables remote care for young people and the elderly. The technology can also function effectively for three to six months without user intervention and saves between 50 and 70 percent in annual health care costs.

Professor Faquire Jain, Institute of Materials Science
Professor Faquire Jain, Institute of Materials Science
Professor Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, Institute of Materials Science
Professor Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, Institute of Materials Science

“We’re thrilled with our experience at MassChallenge, and are grateful to have received such a clear vote of confidence from the organization about the quality and potential impact of our technology,” say cofounders Faquir Jain and Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, professors in UConn’s Institute of Materials Science.

The world’s biggest startup accelerator, MassChallenge accepts only 128 startups out of more than 2,000 that apply each year to participate in the nonprofit organization’s four-month program. During their time at the accelerator, startups receive educational programing and mentorship to advance their early-stage ventures. Since 2010, startups accelerated by MassChallenge have raised $1.1 billion in funding, generated $520 million in revenue and created 6,500 jobs.

Biorasis plans to build on this momentum.

According to Biorasis’ chief operation officer, Dr. IIze Krist, the next step for Biorasis is to develop the animal data needed to allow for clinical trials and FDA approval.

“This recognition by MassChallenge provides external validation of our product concept and its value to patients,” Krist says.

R&D facilities for Biorasis are currently housed in the UConn Technology Incubation Program in Storrs.

–Jessica McBride


Research Spotlight: Rodriguez-Oquendo Advancing Precision Medicine

Dr. Annabelle Rodriguez-Oquendo
Annabelle Rodriguez-Oquendo is a visiting associate professor of cell biology and recipient of the Linda and David Roth Chair in Cardiovascular Research, is performing groundbreaking studies of a genetic link between healthy HDL cholesterol, heart disease, and infertility in women. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

By: Jessica McBride

Dr. Annabelle Rodriguez-Oquendo, professor of cell biology and the Linda and David Roth Chair of Cardiovascular Research, has made important advances in her research since her arrival at UConn Health two years ago, in support of the University’s mission to further scientific understanding of human disease and develop precision medicine for better patient care.

Rodriguez-Oquendo, an endocrinology specialist, came to the University of Connecticut from Johns Hopkins in September of 2012 because of the commitment by both the State of Connecticut and UConn to the biosciences and genetic research, the opportunity to collaborate with world-class scientists at UConn and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, and UConn Health’s large and successful fertility clinic.

Since arriving at UConn Health, Rodriguez-Oquendo has received attention for important discoveries regarding a study she led, which was published in the May 20 issue of PLOS ONE. This study, in which Rodriguez-Oquendo and her team charted the genotypes of participants and tracked episodes of heart disease over a period of seven years, concluded that a common mutation in a gene (SCARB1) that regulates cholesterol levels may raise the risk of heart disease in carriers. Now that UConn researchers know the connection between the mutation in SCARB1 and heart disease, their work will focus on determining a way to fix it.

Rodriguez-Oquendo has also brought her experience and expertise in technology commercialization to UConn Health, with the move of her startup, Lipid Genomics, into the UConn Technology Incubation Program (TIP) in June 2015. Lipid Genomics is developing its FDA-approved investigational drug targeted at people with variations in the HDL (“good cholesterol”) SCARB1 gene. More than 117 million people in the US could benefit from this drug. The market value for this therapeutic is $2.8 billion and for the company’s second product, a novel immune checkpoint inhibitor known as lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), the market value is $1.4 billion, totaling a potential $4.2 billion addressable market for Lipid Genomics.

Most recently, Rodriguez-Oquendo has edited an important, comprehensive textbook on precision medicine: Translational Cardiometabolic Genomic Medicine. Currently available for pre-order with anticipated release in October 2015, this work is an important resource to postgraduate (medical, dental, and graduate) students, postdoctoral fellows, basic scientists, and physician scientists seeking to understand and expand their knowledge base in the field of genomic medicine as it is applied to cardiometabolic diseases. It encompasses a range of topics that highlight bioinformatic approaches to better understanding functionality of the noncoding regions of the human genome to the use of molecular diagnostic testing in predicting increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Where applicable, the text also includes chapters related to therapeutic options specifically aligned to molecular targets.

UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research commends Rodriguez-Oquendo on these recent accomplishments, all of which work to further advance Connecticut and UConn’s commitment to the biosciences, genetic research, and precision medicine.

Read more about Rodriguez-Oquendo’s research in UConn Today. Information about Rodriguez-Oquendo’s textbook is available at the Elsevier Store.

State Grant for UConn TIP Startup

A personalized medicine startup in UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) will receive a $750,000 grant from Connecticut Innovations (CI).

Wa Xian (Sarah Crisp of for UConn Health)
Wa Xian (Sarah Crisp of for UConn Health)
Frank McKeon (Sarah Crisp of for UConn Health)
Frank McKeon. (Sarah Crisp of for UConn Health)

MultiClonal Therapeutics Inc. (MCT) was founded by Frank McKeon and Wa Xian, who formerly held joint faculty positions at UConn Health and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. The award, from CI’s Regenerative Medicine Research Fund, will go toward MCT’s efforts to develop personalized therapies for chronic lung diseases.

“The TIP location allows our team to continue its important scientific work in Connecticut, and to collaborate with leading physicians and researchers as we apply our learning and technology to create new personalized therapies,” Xian says. “MCT’s UConn Health location [at the Cell and Genome Sciences Building] will bolster its success by providing resources to support both our business and R&D needs.”

Xian and McKeon will work with Dr. Mark Metersky, pulmonologist who directs the UConn Center for Bronchiectasis Care, and immunology researcher Laura Haynes in the UConn Center on Aging to translate their technology for therapeutic uses.

“We are pleased to support the exciting work of the MCT team,” says Margaret Cartiera, Director of BioInnovation Connecticut at CI. “This was a highly competitive process and our peer reviewers and the advisory committee agreed that this project demonstrated the characteristics of clinical promise and innovation that we look for in an applicant. We look forward to hearing more about MCT’s developments in the future.”

An article recently published in the journal Nature describes technology that for the first time captures the stem cells of medically important tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, liver and kidney, opening the possibility for their use in regenerative medicine for chronic diseases. UConn Health faculty members who contributed to the research include Dr. Tom Devers, gastroenterologist and site director for the UConn School of Medicine’s Gastroenterology-Hepatology Fellowship Program, and Dr. Jeffrey Hyams, UConn School of Medicine professor of pediatrics.

Nature published an article from the same group, on a potential lung regeneration mechanism, last November.

The Cell and Genome Sciences Building in winter, 400 Farmington Ave., is home to UConn's Technlogy Incubation Program,. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Photo)
The Cell and Genome Sciences Building, 400 Farmington Ave., is home to UConn’s Technlogy Incubation Program,. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Photo)

“In the few years since McKeon and Xian arrived in Connecticut, they have formed many deep collaborations with UConn faculty and are creating novel health care solutions in critical areas of need that will be developed and applied here in Connecticut,” says UConn Vice President for Research Jeff Seemann. “We praise them for both their leading-edge technology as well as their entrepreneurial interests. This is exactly what was anticipated when the Bioscience Connecticut initiative was enacted by Governor Malloy and the state legislature.”

Quotations and other information are from a news release from Fierce Medical Devices.