vivoVerse awarded SBIR Phase II grant from the NIMH

vivoVerse (formerly operating as Newormics) is excited to announce it has been awarded a $2.25M Phase II SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for the continued development of the company’s in vivo imaging and screening technologies.

vivoVerse’s core focus is to facilitate the use of C. elegans as a model organism for life-science research and drug and toxicology screening through its innovative microfluidics-based platform. This platform allows researchers to rapidly immobilize thousands of microscopic animals for fast and high-resolution imaging within minutes. The high-density information and an automated image acquisition approach facilitate the quantification of different phenotypes caused by chemical exposures or disease-related mutations. Using high-content C. elegans screens, vivoVerse offers in vivo developmental neurotoxicology (DNT) and developmental and reproductive toxicology (DART) testing of chemicals in a dose-dependent manner.

vivoVerse (formerly operating as Newormics) was awarded the Phase II SBIR grant to further develop the automated microfluidic platform and DNT assays. We will perform a comprehensive set of validation experiments using the well-characterized reference chemical library to confirm the chemical space that these assays are most relevant. The second major goal will focus on investigating neurotoxicity profiles of combination antiretroviral therapies (CART) in the treatment of HIV. Long term use of antiretroviral drugs in clinical treatment of HIV can have neurotoxic effects in some patients. Although in vitro testing using primary cultures of neurons can give some insight into the potential toxicity of these drugs; however, such methods suffer from several drawbacks, including limited maturation of primary neurons, short exposure times, irreproducible neural connections, and lack of multi-organ complexity. To determine the potential for acute neurotoxicity with prolonged use of CART across the lifespan, there is a need for the use of an in vivo small model organism, such as C. elegans, with a mature and complete nervous system. The C. elegans nervous system shares with humans many of the molecular pathways involved in neural development and degeneration. It is already an established model for in vivo study of human neurodegenerative diseases and neurotoxicity induced by drugs and other chemicals.

vivoVerse will develop CRISPR modified worms with fluorescent markers of the major neuronal subtypes (i.e. dopaminergic, cholinergic, serotonergic, and GABAergic). These C. elegans models will be used to test different concentrations of antiretroviral drugs and chemicals using the vivoVerse’s proprietary vivoChip® screening platform. The vivoChip® devices are capable of screening multiple treatment conditions, each containing up to 40 animals, and able to rapidly immobilize and image up to 11,000 animals in a single experiment using a 384-well format. A graphic user interface will enable a high-content analysis of the acquired high-resolution 3D images of neurons from each animal and scoring of various phenotypes related to neuronal degeneration. Using this novel approach, we will screen several antiretroviral drugs individually, or with different combinations, that are currently used in the treatment of HIV patients.

“vivoVerse’s game-changing vivoChip® screening technology will help pharmaceutical and chemical industries to get safer therapeutics and consumer products to the market faster for improved health and economic benefits, while meeting regulatory compliance for reduced animal use”

Adela Ben-Yakar, CEO and Professor at The University of Texas at Austin.

vivoVerse’s in vivo toxicity services using the vivoChip® screening platform and C. elegans models will serve various industries including pharmaceutical, petrochemical, agricultural, cosmetics, and household consumer products. High-throughput toxicology screening services for new chemicals will be offered to commercial clients to identify any potential toxicity issues and accelerate the pathway to market for new products.

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