AEIOU Scientific, a TechGROWTH Ohio portfolio company that is working to commercialize their Cortical Bone Mechanics Technology (CBMT) to non-invasively assess bone strength, won NASA’s Ignite the Night OHIO award. This national program is designed to identify solutions to problems of interest to NASA, while connecting innovators with potential investors to fund further development and product commercialization.
Current diagnostic technologies that are designed to assess skeletal health do not determine actual bone strength. Instead, they mainly rely on assessing bone mineral density, which does not correlate well with strength nor adequately identifies patients at risk of fracture.
AEIOU’s proprietary technology aims to solve that problem by placing a vibrating ceramic probe against the forearm, which makes the bone under the skin vibrate in response. By using novel vibration analysis of bone strength, the company believes it will be able to provide a strong assessment of fracture risk.
In space, astronauts experience bone loss in their thighs of 1% to 1.5% mass per month and 6% to 10% over a six month stay, with recovery on Earth taking three to four years, according to research conducted by NASA. AEIOU’s CBMT for measuring bone strength, along with its shorter path to commercialization, gave it an edge over the other teams at the Ignite the Night OHIO event as NASA looks for bone loss solutions.
“By winning this award, our company has received tremendous external validation for CBMT,” AEIOU Chief Executive Officer Gary Wakeford said. “This emphasizes the need for a technology to identify and measure bone strength among people with osteoporosis and other bone diseases.”
Osteoporosis causes an average 2.3 million fragility fractures among Medicare patients every year, costing around $19 billion, according to a report published by the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “Osteoporosis treatment decisions are heavily driven by X-ray based measurements of bone mineral density and risk surveys. Unfortunately, these tools lack sufficient discriminatory sensitivity and accuracy to identify many individuals at high risk of experiencing a fragility fracture,” AEIOU Chief of Aging Research Brian Clark said.
Clark said CBMT has the potential to help physicians more accurately identify who would benefit from osteoporosis medications and monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. Wakeford estimates this market opportunity exceeds over $1 billion.
AEIOU is a medical technology start-up that spun out of technology developed at Ohio University. The commercialization efforts initially began a few years ago with funding from the Ohio University Innovation Strategy Program. This led to the creation of AEIOU, which has already received one grant from the National Institutes of Health and recently submitted another proposal to permit clinical testing of CBMT.
The company plans to sell the technology initially as a scientific instrument to bone research labs and universities in 2021. AEIOU will then use the data from these labs to apply for CBMT approval from the FDA. The company also plans to raise $1 million in seed funding.
“Ohio University has a robust innovation infrastructure baked into our culture,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “Not only do we offer our faculty and professionals the institutional support to develop these types of groundbreaking technologies, but programs like TechGROWTH Ohio are also located right here at the University to provide the expertise, services and investments to grow start-up businesses and build our regional economy.”
Wakeford said that AEIOU’s success would have been hard to attain without assistance from TechGROWTH Ohio, which provided growth funding, support in selecting their current CEO, grant writing services to apply for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase 2 application and an intern placement, in addition to ongoing guidance and advice.
“This award is a distinction that draws attention to the wonderful work that AEIOU is doing and the product they are trying to develop,” said Jane New, TechGROWTH’s manager of investments and new venture development. “It also demonstrates NASA’s recognition of the need of this technology for astronauts returning from space and its broad application in the public sector.”
The company is also an I-Corps@Ohio success story, which provided them hands-on training in evaluating market needs and commercial potential of groundbreaking technologies. AEIOU currently has offices in the Ohio University Innovation Center.
“The whole entrepreneurial ecosystem in Athens has been tremendously supportive,” Wakeford said. “We are receiving guidance from all facets here, including the Innovation Center and The Technology Transfer Office, which is actually the department that made us aware of the NASA opportunity. I think that speaks volumes to what a great place it is to be involved with an early-stage startup company.”