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November 24, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Dan Close says 490 BioTech growing “slowly but steadily”

490 BioTech-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in our series spotlighting start-ups founded on technologies licensed from the UT Research Foundation.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“We continue to grow, slowly but steadily” Dan Close, Chief Scientific Officer of 490 BioTech, told us recently.

The company was founded in 2011 with a four-person management team populated by individuals associated with the University of Tennessee (UT). They were Gary Sayler, Chief Executive Officer; Steve Ripp, Chief Operating Officer; Stacey Patterson, Chief Technology Officer; and Close..

Based on the idea that biomedical imaging should be both easy and data-rich, 490 BioTech is the only company that offers bioluminescent human cell lines capable of continuously and autonomously producing light. The start-up serves academic, commercial, industrial, and government researchers.

490 BioTech has secured two Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, the latest coming from the National Science Foundation. It funds work to create bioluminescent zebrafish that may one day replace the mouse as the fundamental model for human disease research.

“These grants allowed us to hire a dedicated business officer, Dan Morrison, and some part-time people and expand out of just human cell lines,” Close said.

SBIRs are clearly part of the strategy, at least in the short-term.

The company recently submitted a Phase I SBIR application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is preparing a Phase II application to the National Institutes of Health.

We first profiled 490 BioTech in mid-2012 and have provided periodic updates since then. The most recent article about a year ago noted the company won a coveted spot in The Scientist’s annual “Top 10 Innovations” competition.

490 BioTech’s core technology was licensed from the UT Research Foundation (UTRF). That relationship was recently expanded.

“We have licensed a yeast line from UTRF that allows us to serve people interested in water quality monitoring,” Close explained.

Broader visibility is also a strategic goal with 490 BioTech participating in two major conferences this year – 2014 BIO International in San Diego in June and BioPharma America 2014 in Boston in September.

“Both gave us a lot of very good contacts with some of the larger companies like Johnson & Johnson and Amgen and opened up some overseas markets that we are currently pursuing,” Close said.

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