Cincinnati startup accelerates science, data and discovery

Datirium receives a phase II STTR grant from NIH to commercialize a data analysis platform

Gathering and interpreting data is often the most vital and perplexing step toward making discoveries, understanding health problems and finding cures. Biologists must promptly overcome several hurdles, including storing, sharing, integrating and analyzing data.

Traditional biologists do not possess expertise in the analysis of big data, and the arrival of next-generation sequencing and other big data technologies in research and clinical practice made finding a solution to accelerate the interpretation of this data crucial.

Two local scientists had an idea and are utilizing resources within the Cincinnati Innovation District (CID) to launch a product that could help solve data analysis issues for researchers and increase treatments related to various diseases or medical conditions. They have received a $1.6 million Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to further develop their technology.

Datirium, LLC was co-founded by Artem Barski, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Cincinnati Department of Pediatrics and a doctor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, together with Andrey Kartashov, a software developer specializing in bioinformatics. “

Our company name is Datirium (Data +Delirium), reflecting the huge amount of data modern scientists must sift through to make their discoveries, Kartashov said.

Results within hours, not months

The startup’s signature product is a platform they call SciDAP, Scientific Data Analysis Platform.

“SciDap allows scientists to quickly perform routine data analyses to visualize and expedite high throughput biological data processing, Kartashov said. “Our platform will help researchers gain deeper insights and make better decisions in a shorter time and at a lower cost. They can receive results within hours, not months, accelerating discoveries of disease mechanisms and potential cures.”

SciDAP is a user-friendly analysis and experiment management platform for next generation sequencing (NGS) and other big data. The platform removes dependence upon manual data analysis usually performed by bioinformaticians. The process often takes months to turn around with high costs, Barski and Kartashov said.

Rather than removing bioinformaticians from the research process, SciDAP automates routine data processing tasks, allowing bioinformaticians and other scientists to focus on what matters: biological discoveries.

User-friendly

As rapid growth and insights into NGS-related genome sequencing continue generating data at crushing speeds, gaining knowledge into what worked and did not work quickly is vital, the duo said.

Some data analysis packages are user-friendly but use black-box pipelines for data processing. Others use transparent open-source pipelines but are difficult to master.  What sets SciDAP apart from similar products is the combination of transparency of open-source analysis pipelines with the ease of use aimed at non-technical users.

SciDAP achieves this by automating the creation of an interactive user interface for reproducible and open-source pipelines. Users access and connect to SciDAP through their web browser, directly linking them to SciDAP’s secure user-owned data-processing and storage satellite server. The data never leaves the user’s network as SciDAP works as a remote control to the satellite, communicating specific data to use and share.

Fast-track for commercialization

Inside the CID’s nerve center, the 1819 Innovation Hub, Barski and Kartashov participated in the UC Venture Lab pre-accelerator program to fast-track commercialization.

The program provides several resources, including entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIR) who mentor participants. Barski and Kartashov worked with EIR Mark Dorfmueller, who has more than three decades of supply chain and digital transformation experience at Procter & Gamble and General Electric.

"Together with Datirium co-founders, we worked to create a plan for growth and business development and pitched to the 1819 UC Ventures accelerator for funding. This, in turn, made Datirium attractive to state and federal small business funding agencies, including Ohio Third Frontier Foundation and National Institutes of Health,” said Dorfmueller.

Those efforts yielded not only the $1.6 million NIH grant but also a $150,000 Phase ll grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF).

“We are excited to receive this funding to assist with further development of our SciDAP platform. It would have taken us years to do without the Venture Lab. We had an interesting idea, but as scientists, we did not know how to create and commercialize a product. This program taught us essential techniques to identify what users might need before spending a lot of money,” Barski said.

Commercialization for impact

Speed matters when launching startups because of their potential to solve problems that matter, said Ryan Hays, chief innovation officer, University of Cincinnati.

“Datirium is an example of how a Venture Lab startup can access available resources, connect with talent and launch a product that attracts investors and customers,” he added. “The Cincinnati Innovation District provides faculty, students, would-be-entrepreneurs and industry with a simplified and accelerated pace to commercialize their ideas which impact our economy.”

SciDAP has identified academic labs at research universities and facilities through the Venture Lab as its primary bridgehead market. Eventually, Barski and Kartashov hope to offer their product to the biotech, pharma and genomics markets.

There is a great need to speed up the identification of sequencing, defects and irregularities so scientists can aggregate data quickly and make informed decisions when discovering new drugs and cures to improve patient care, they said.

Featured image at top: 1819 Innovation Hub

About UC Venture Lab

A leading model for urban-centered universities, the UC Venture Lab activates a high density of rapidly curated startup opportunities that attract outside entrepreneurial talent and investors. We connect university students, faculty, staff, and alumni to talent and funding to help launch new companies. Our team includes Office of Innovation staff as well as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs), coaches, curated service providers, and subject matter experts.

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