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NHLBI to Fund Small Businesses Developing Microfluidics Devices

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has issued a funding announcement aimed at spurring development of new microfluidic devices for analyzing the blood of pediatric and neonatal patients.

The institute will award Small Business Innovation Research grants and a Small Business Technology Transfer grant to fuel these efforts.

Through the SBIR grants, NHLBI plans to provide $450,000 in fiscal year 2014 and $1.5 million in each of the two following years to support Phase and Phase II awards. It intends to fund two new Phase I or Fast-Track SBIR awards in FY 2014 and two new Phase II SBIR awards in FY 2015.

For the SBIR awards, small businesses seeking this funding may apply for up to $225,000 for Phase I funding and up to $750,000 for Phase II projects.

NHLBI also plans to fund one STTR award with up to $225,000 in FY 2014.

NHLBI sees a need for microfluidic devices that can analyze thrombotic, transfusion, or hemostatic conditions of blood from minute samples, because most current testing procedures require relatively large blood draws that lead to anemia or require corrective transfusions in critically ill pediatric and neonatal patients.

Because of the possible complications of large blood draws, such evaluations sometimes may not be performed in pediatric and neonatal care because of the risk of depleting the patients' limited blood volumes. Microfluidic technologies that require only microliter and nanoliter-level quantities of blood could help bypass this problem.

Microfluidic devices may be ideally suited for use in care of neonatal and pediatric patients who may show swift changes in blood system physiology because they can be rapid, easy to interpret, automated, cost-effective, and capable of measuring blood volumes of less than 100 microliters.

The cost, ease-of-use, and speed of these devices are valuable because pediatric and neonatal patients require frequent monitoring of their blood for changes in status of hemostatic or thrombotic conditions.

Such microfluidic devices also could open up opportunities for pediatric and neonatal patients to participate in drug research and developmental studies safely. Historically, there has been a lack of approved drugs and therapies for these patients because there is a lack of appropriate blood testing procedures and tools.

"Microfluidic technology offers the potential of greater pediatric participation in clinical trials and subsequently improved drug safety and efficacy for these subjects," NHLBI said in the funding announcements. "As an example, microfluidic devices could facilitate pharmacokinetic analysis of new drugs in pediatric/neonatal populations which could potentially improve the availability of these new agents for pediatric use."

All types of microfluidic designs are applicable, NHLBI said, so long as they are portable, sensitive, and have some commercial potential.

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