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July 18, 2013 | Tom Ballard

490 BioTech midway through Phase I SBIR award work

490 BioTech-teknoIt had been months since we last talked with Dan Close, one of the founders of 490 BioTech, a local start-up focused on commercializing its human and animal cells capable of continuously producing light.

The company was founded by Close and three others who were colleagues at the University of Tennessee (UT). Close more recently left UT to accept a prestigious Eugene P. Wigner Fellowship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

When we recently caught-up with him, we learned that the company is midway through its work on a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We received official notification late last year and received the money early this year,” Close said, adding that 490 BioTech actually won two awards, but could only accept one. The other agency that wished to provide Phase I funding to the start-up was the Environmental Protection Agency. The NIH amount and opportunities were more attractive, and 490 BioTech could only accept one award.

The federal funding will allow the company to develop a high throughput, low cost way to detect estrogenic chemicals.

“We’re trying to develop screens for chemicals that people encounter every day,” Close said. “These are chemicals that mimic the actions of that hormone.”

He added that the SBIR opportunity was “something we had been looking at doing, because it was aligned with our interests.”

The company is “making good progress on our Phase I goals,” Close said. “We plan to finish-up in December and apply for a Phase II.”

In addition to funding research, the SBIR also enabled 490 BioTech to hire two technicians. “The extra hands have been really good for us,” Close noted.

The company was previously profiled on at

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