The day you get a call saying your company is a finalist for a prestigious Innovation award is a very good day.!
That happened to us at Probius recently. We got a message saying that we were in the top companies vying for the SLAS2023 Ignite Award. SLAS is the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, and its mission focused in the advancement of life sciences discovery and technology. SLAS organizes an international conference with ~200 exhibitors and 6000+ registered attendees. It’s thrilling to be identified by this convener of impactful discoveries and technologies!
We’re so amped up about this opportunity that we’d like to offer you a step-by-step set of insights into got what it takes to achieve the honor of being a finalist for this award.
What is the Ignite Award?
The SLAS Ignite Award recognizes the best start-up or emerging company from all of those who are exhibiting within Innovation AveNEW, the specially designated area for start-ups and emerging companies within the SLAS 2023 Exhibition.
Companies competing for this prize are judged by an SLAS panel on a combination of key elements, which we’ll discuss further below.
The winning company takes home a $5,000 cash prize. That’s less our driving factor, however, than the awareness that Probius’ QES technology is a game-changer for research and healthcare.
Let’s review what got us here, and how do we perform on the criteria used to judge, as we anticipate our presentation at the Ignite theater on Feb 27th.
Step 1: Develop a technology that can speed research – and subsequently cures.
Over the course of 10 years, Probius’ team have been refining a new technology that takes advantage of the synergies between physics, mathematics, and biology.
From its inception at Stanford, multiple innovations and technical improvements were needed to bring this deep technology to its maturity point. Being a deep technology at the intersection of physics, chemistry, math and biology, QES required innovations at multiple levels at the same time:
- QES Sensor: innovations and improvements were required at the solid-liquid quantum interphase of the QES sensor to establish the feasibility of the concept. Different iterations of the consumable sensor were designed, tested, and improved to achieve maturity to enable manufacturing scale-up of the consumable.
- MiniQES reader: state-of-the-art ultra-low noise electronics are required to scan the electronic signal representing molecular vibrations and make it detectable and sensitive without cooling the sample to ultra-low temperature. These innovations and technical work were critical to making the technology practical.
- Data extraction, processing, and analysis: innovations in data extraction and processing were required to make the data tractable. In addition, improvements were made to the data transference to increase scalability. Last but not least, both workflows for data analysis and interpretation (quantitation and signature discovery) were developed using Machine learning/AI tools and placed in a cloud environment for scalability and efficiency.
Integrating all of these innovations, required several prototype iterations, that were tested in the field and internally to support and guide the product on its development path. As a result of these iterations,
- The instrument size shrank to a small and automation-friendly 96-well plate footprint.
- Assay sensitivity and operation simplicity were enhanced to avoid sample preparation, to require only one pipetting step and only 2-4 ul of a sample (plasma/serum/blood, etc).
- Robustness and reliability improved as well to a point were the instrument could be used in the field (e.g., Marathon Challenge).
- Throughput increased from 1 to 6 samples at the time.
- Data acquisition was accelerated from 90 min (1 sample) to 30 min (6 samples in parallel).
- Data upload and processing were improved to allow results to be rapidly uploaded and analyzed.
The resulting product of this process, the MiniQES Bioanalytical Platform is being used by our early collaborators to generate data and help us practice and improve the broad release of the platform.
Additionally, and as a result of this process, six patent families were issued, with 7 patents issued and 3 pending. Two scientific articles describing the principles of the technology were published, and one describing analytics is being prepared for submission
Step 2: Establishing the Team
Discovering a major breakthrough in biological research is a very big deal. Building a company that can execute on a vision is something else. But converting a breakthrough technology into a product for scientists… can only be achieved with a very diverse team of individuals across science and business. Probius has built a multidisciplinary team that sits at the intersection of several scientific disciplines and can guide the industry to a new era of biological research.
Probius Leadership has experience in physics, electrochemistry, mathematics, and data analysis, among other science disciplines (C.Gupta, R. Howe, and J. Baldoni). Its leadership team is recognized for developing and commercializing electronic products (E. Quevy) and disruptive life science technologies (J. Cuevas). The BoD include advisors from AI in life sciences and Pharmaceutical development (J. Baldoni, J. Paragas, J. MacWilliams and J.Naeve).
With serial entrepreneurs leading the business, connected executives with expertise across the gambit of pharmaceuticals and other life sciences industries, the company is poised to take breakthroughs and turn them into how business is done. In addition, a Board of Directors that has broad experience in AI, biopharma and research, that can advice and guide always with a fresh view.
Step 3: Marketing and Commercialization
Because SLAS has seen a horde of companies come and go, they are keenly aware that how one goes to market can make or break the trajectory of success. That’s why they considered not just what’s been accomplished thus far, but also how the plans will establish market presence and awareness.
For us, SLAS 2023 in San Diego represents the first public exhibition, with a booth and commercial presence. But more important than product brochures and giveways, is the commercialization and marketing roadmap we pretend to follow in the next few months.
As a model, we have adopted and adapted a well proven approach of product release. This approach encompasses 3 phases, Early collaboration, Limited Release and Broad Release and it has been proven across different areas of Life Sciences products.
As the company progresses through the 3 phases, the commercial organization improves its maturity and capacity by scaling up and improving the processes. in the meantime, applications are tested and proven. proven evidence and data is key for products used across the areas of scientific research.
- The “beta” product is released early (Early Release Phase) to a handful of collaborators, that will help identify the product pros and cons, as well as the fit into the market. this is a phase that is currently ongoing at Probius, where we have (e.g.,) released the results of an early collaboration with Stanford to discover a way to detect tuberculosis from a non-infectious plasma sample.
- An “MVP” product is completed before Limited release, a few (10-15 customers) are added after careful selection of the application areas. These collaborators and partners will have “first-movers’-advantage” on the QES technology and discover the benefits of the technology ahead of their competitors. it is important to limit this phase, as Probius would like to provide the best support possible to these key early customers.
- Last but not least, the final product configuration is broadly released to the public and the product becomes widely available to purchase and and use.
In parallel to these 3-phases we have also created QESLab, which is a collaboration grant program that will be used by our early collaborators and partners as well as other innovative researchers to develop novel applications of QES technology and publish these findings. If you have an idea to explore, do not hesitate to contact us at the bottom of this article.
Step 4: Plans for Growth
While the QES can be potentially applied to very broad problems and questions, from identification of biothreats to enabling decentralized predictive healthcare, we have chosen to start with 3 key application areas to demonstrate the power of QES before broadly expanding our reach.
These 3 areas have been selected based on the responses from an extensive market (Voice of the customer, VOC) study as well as the fit with the actual benefits of the MiniQES platform
- Preclinical Research: drive efficiency in experimental models by using only 2-4 ul of sample and a reagent-free approach that allows adding new analytes without consuming additional sample.
- Biomarker Discovery:accelerate and complement discovery with broad-spectrum phenotypic signatures from proteins, metabolites, and cells in days and not months.
- Bioproduction: assess purity and quality with a multi-modal method without sample preparation or reagents. QES allows you to detect and quantify your desired molecules quickly.
Step 5: Demonstrate fundability.
Probius has emerged from Stanford in 2016 and received early funding from programs like DARPA and (later) SBIR. We’ve been able to attract investors who are committed to our business success like Cota Capital, Zoic Capital, Baidu Ventures, Stanford and Shanda Group. In total we have been able to raise ~$11M of Funding and $5M of non-dilutive funding so far.
As we move forward towards commercialization, we have initiated the process of raising a new round (Series B) of Fund.
And that’s what is bringing us to this opportunity. We’ll be offering a full presentation at SLAS 2023, (Ignite theater, February 27th ), demonstrating this advancement in data mining and discover. We know the industry will embrace the unbiased approach to data acquisition, which allows for the analysis of the makeup of biological samples across multiple sample types and applications.
Hope to see you there!
And if you want to chat and discuss early access opportunities, please do not hesitate to drop us a line!
Quantum Tunneling Currents in a Nanoengineered Electrochemical SystemC Gupta, RM Walker, S Chang, SR Fischer, M Seal, B Murmann, …The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 121 (28), 15085-15105
Active control of probability amplitudes in a mesoscale system via feedback-induced suppression of dissipation and noiseC Gupta, A Peña Perez, SR Fischer, SB Weinreich, B Murmann, RT
Tunable control of antibody immobilization using electric fieldS Emaminejad, M Javanmard, C Gupta, S Chang, RW Davis, RT HoweProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (7), 1995-1999 HoweJournal of Applied Physics 120 (22), 224902