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November 12, 2017 | Tom Ballard

IQuity wins Friday’s “Venture Forum” hosted by LifeSciTN and LaunchTN

LifeSciTN and LaunchTNBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

IQuity, a Nashville start-up focused on helping doctors with faster diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, captured Friday’s annual “Venture Forum” sponsored by Life Science Tennessee and Launch Tennessee.

The event, held in the new OneC1ty complex in Nashville, featured four companies. All were from either Middle or West Tennessee. By winning the forum, IQuity secured a prize of $5,000 awarded by the Waller law firm.

Judges for the competition were Jay Ferguson, Chief Financial Officer at Mountain Group Partners; Brian Laden, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Tri-Star Health Partners; Gary Rawlings, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Cumberland Emerging Technologies; and Waller Partner Hunter Rost.

As noted in our recent profile, IQuity is providing tools that allow physicians to diagnose autoimmune diseases faster, so treatment can be started sooner. “Early diagnosis is critical,” Julia Polk, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Financial Officer, said, adding that there are more than 80 diseases that fall within the autoimmune category.

IQuity is leveraging machine learning methods to deliver breakthrough RNA diagnostics and analytics. Its initial offerings include separately branded tests for neurology, gastroenterology, and rheumatology that are based on proprietary algorithms capable of “ruling in” or “ruling out” specific autoimmune diseases. All are marketed under the Isolate brand.

“We’re a data science company with a lab on the side,” Polk told those attending the event.

Other competitors, in order of presentation, were:

  • Jeremy Norris presented Frontier Diagnostics, a Smyrna-based molecular diagnostics start-up using mass spectrometry that was founded in 2014. The company offers an Internet-based platform to eliminate the high levels of false positive and false negative diagnosis in areas like prostate, cervical, breast, and skin cancer. Norris, who is also a Research Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine, served for three years as Vice President for Research and Development at Knoxville start-up Protein Discovery Inc.
  • Mark Myers co-founded NeuroDyne to provide an ambulatory seizure monitoring device. The product, named SeizureSenz, provides neurologists an alternative to the costly process of hospitalizing patients for neurological diagnoses. Myers, an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, described the SeizureSenz as an EEG cap that links-up with an app on the wearer’s mobile phone.
  • Matt McGuire pitched SafeStamp, a Nashville-based start-up focused on addressing what he described as the death of more than one million people annually. What’s the cause? It’s counterfeit drugs. McGuire is using quantum dots as the validator of the authenticity of drugs. His initial target is two countries – China and India – where counterfeiting numbers are extremely high.

With the exception of IQuity, the other competitors are participants in the “Life Science Network” that the association sponsors with funding from Launch Tennessee.

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