NanoMedTrix, LLC, an Iowa JPEC Faculty Innovators alumni company founded by Joe Assouline, has won a two-year, $2-million Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Cancer Institute for its work developing nanoparticles designed to target solid tumors common in bladder, colorectal and neural cancers.

While most contrast agents are only for single use and for one type of medical imaging, NanoMedTrix’s particles combine contrast molecules to work with multiple imaging methods, reducing waste when more than one type of scan is required. Traditional contrast agents are global, but NanoMedTrix’s particles can target specific tissue types. The molecules are also engineered to be a carrier for bioactive drugs. This powerful combination of targeting and treatment with drug to be delivered to only the tissue in the body that needs it, is groundbreaking.

“We can simultaneously  treat cancer, pain, inflammation and even infections,” said Assouline, an adjunct associate professor in the Roy J. Carver Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. “The uniqueness of our product resides in the potent combination of drug therapy and imaging harnessed in a very small particle—10,000-fold smaller than a human hair.”

The SBIR grant is designed to move the technology beyond theoretical research and into commercialization by providing undiluted funds without stakes in the technology. Assouline said that he and his team spent two years preparing the Phase II application, which is reflective of the rigorous process required to move basic research to a commercial application.

Since its founding in 2012, NanoMedTrix has raised more than $1 million in wins from in pitch competitions on campus through Iowa JPEC and across Iowa and NHI and NSF awards. The company’s headquarters and lab/manufactory space are located at the business incubator in the University of Iowa Research Park in Coralville..

Assouline and his team participated in the UI Innovators Workshop, an NSF I-Corps site program that provides UI faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to develop marketable ideas and accelerate the start-up process through a 3-week curriculum. From there, Assouline and his team participated in the National Institutes of Health I-Corps program. During this time, they attended training in California and Washington, DC, and traveled cross-country to conduct more than 120 customer discovery interviews. The result of three months of rigorous work culminated 185-page report that became the core of NanoMedTrix’s Phase II SBIR Application, which support NanoMedTrix’s efforts to bring their product to market.

“Obviously, commercialization of our products is essential,” Assouline said. “Ever since its inception, NanoMedTrix has been geared to undertake a commercial track.”And pledges to continue seeking young talents for to improve innovation and entrepreneurship. 

NanoMedTrix is undergoing valuation and preparing for Series A Financing rounds and moving towards clinical trials, which will demonstrate if the products are viable options for the treatment of cancer and associated diseases.

“NanoMedTrix has a bright future,” he said.  “There are still lots of hurdles to overcome, but we have a proven and novel technology.”

For additional information on NanoMedTrix, visit their website.