NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A new National Institutes of Health grant program will use $1.2 million to support small businesses developing low-cost assays and devices for predicting which children may be at heightened risk of contracting type 1 diabetes.
The Small Business Innovation Research grants will provide up to $300,000 per year for Phase I projects that will fund innovative research at small firms to develop predictive screening technologies that use genetic, metabolic, and immune system biomarkers.
Early prediction of who is at higher risk for type 1 diabetes can be helpful in speeding up a diagnosis and treatment for the disease, which can shorten lifespan and cause a number of health problems including blindness, renal failure, nerve disorders, cardiovascular disease, and amputation, according to NIH.
Although clinical trials are ongoing to reverse or prevent the autoimmunity of type 1 diabetes, tools for identifying who is at risk are costly, require lab participation, and may not be suitable for large public health screening programs.
The SBIR grants are funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The kind of assays NIDDK and NICHD seeks to fund could be used to facilitate recruitment for clinical studies of environmental triggers for type 1 diabetes and interventions that could prevent it, and they could spur the clinical implementation of measures for preventing or delaying the disease in those at risk.
Small businesses could use these grants to pursue development of point-of-care (POC) diagnostic devices for pre-diabetes; high-throughput POC assays for detecting autoantibody detection; tools or products for predicting, delaying, or preventing diabetes; development of non-invasive imaging tools and biomarkers for in vivo measurement of pancreatic beta cell mass, function, or inflammation for diagnosing and prognosing pre-diabetic stages and follow-up; and development of high-throughput assays based on biologic pathways involved in diabetes that could be used to develop new diagnostics, among others.