Cornell startups receive $3 million from NYS to prevent outbreak

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Two startups from Cornell – Halomine, Inc. and Inso Biosciences, Inc. – received nearly $3 million in grants from New York State to thwart future outbreaks of infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and its variants, and to help strengthen life science industries by expansion of the state.

A total of 18 grants for businesses and educational institutions received $15.3 million from the New York State Biodefense Commercialization Fund, through the Empire State Development agency.

The state’s biodefense program — which grew out of the pandemic — was created to accelerate the development and commercialization of life science innovations that tackle infectious disease threats.

“New York State was the first and hardest hit by COVID-19, and even as New York continues to make progress in fighting this virus and building back stronger,” the Governor of New York said. York, Kathy Hochul. “We are taking steps to ensure we are ready for the future.”

Halomine, an antimicrobial coating technology company that graduated in June from Cornell’s Praxis Center for Business Development incubator, received $2 million. Inso Biosciences, which develops genomic sample preparation platforms and is currently housed at the university Center for Life Science Companies incubator, received $955,000.

Preparing samples in the lab is labor-intensive, slow, and error-prone, said Harvey Tian, ​​Ph.D. ’17, CEO and co-founder of Inso Biosciences. The biotech startup has developed an engineered microfluidic system, consisting of a benchtop instrument and consumable “chip” cartridges – roughly the size of a microscope slide – that can quickly process samples to improve sequencing sensitivity new infectious diseases.

The method provides a way to automate the handling of biological samples while maintaining precision, minimizing the use of manual pipettes, and eliminating the need for more complex biochemical assays.

“What used to take hours in a lab can now take minutes,” Tian said. “We have dramatically accelerated the human material removal step, which is essential in biodefense applications such as sequencing and identification of new infectious agents.”

This fall, Inso Biosciences will use state funding to begin prototype development of its product, as the company prepares to proceed and collaborate with potential partners in validation studies.

In addition to Tian, ​​the co-founders of Inso Biosciences are Adam Bisogni ’08, Ph.D. ’17, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer; and Professor Emeritus Harold Craighead, co-founder and scientific advisor, who is a veteran of technology commercialization with his co-foundation of Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ: PACB), a former Cornell startup in his research group.

Halomine’s antimicrobial coating technology helps keep surfaces germ-free – such as stair railings, escalator ramps, food conveyors and food prep tables – extending the life chlorine-based disinfectants for several days and weeks.

Normally, a chlorine sanitizer lasts up to 15 minutes, but the group’s main product, HaloFilm, is a non-toxic chlorine extender spray that leaves a protective film, according to Ted Eveleth, MBA ’90, CEO of Halomine.

With the state grant, the company hopes to develop a new product, HaloAdd – an antimicrobial plastic additive – to create commercial food processing tools and medical devices such as catheters and ultrasound wands.

“Ideally, you want to make these plastic products with antimicrobial properties,” Eveleth said, “but the means to do that are limited. We think we’ve found the way.”

Pending regulatory approval, the HaloFilm product is almost ready for commercialization, but the new HaloAdd has proven itself in the lab and the company is looking to optimize research, according to Eveleth.

In addition to Eveleth, those responsible for Halomine are co-founder Mingyu Qiao, CTO; and co-founder Minglin Ma, Cornell Associate Professor, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

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