Matthew Gevaert and David Orr developed an innovative approach to cancer research, testing new drug compounds using live cells from patients with a device that resembles a Lego. Gevaert and Orr’s “3DKUBE,” a cell cultured plasticware, creates a 3Dmodel of patient cells that allows researchers to study the growth of the cells in a cultured environment that mimics the conditions of the human body. The process is designed to produce more relevant data on drug safety and efficacy, and determine which drugs are most effective for treating cancer patients. To expand use of this technology, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded a $295,000 Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to Matthew and David’s company KIYATEC to develop a 3D model specifically for breast cancer patients. The company plans to eventually use the model to more accurately predict a patient’s response to certain drugs for lung and brain cancer.
The SBIR and small business technology transfer program (STTR) are competitive programs within the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation that support scientific and technology innovation through the investment of research funds. SBIR/STTR encourages small businesses to engage in federal research and development that have the potential for commercialization. KIYATEC and other biotech companies will showcase their cutting-edge technology in the Innovation Zone at the BIO International Conference in San Diego June 23 – 26.
Despite the success of endeavors like the 3DKUBE, funding for research and development in the U.S. as a whole has been relatively flat for the last decade, and sequestration, the automatic-spending-cuts that took effect last year, has slowed the pace of innovation. A plurality of small business leaders believe that federally-funded research and development is important to their business, according to a nationwide survey of small business owners/operators commissioned by Research!America. And a majority believes that research and development is important to global competitiveness, which is at risk here in the U.S. as China and other countries ramp up their R&D investments.
Federally-funded research provides the seed corn for innovators like KIYATEC and entrepreneurs who have a vision but not the funding to make their dreams become reality. We must ensure that policy makers assign a higher priority to research and development to bring lifesaving technologies to market.