Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is an extremely rare but devastating eye disease that primarily affects individuals wearing contact lenses. Caused by an infection of amoebas, the condition can lead to permanent eye damage or even blindness if left untreated.
Christopher Rice, assistant research scientist in the Center for Drug Discovery, may have discovered a novel solution. His biotechnology startup project, Theramoebics, is developing a prescription therapeutic that can be compounded into eye drops to effectively treat AK and greatly reduce the risk of reinfection.
Theramoebics was one of 10 teams of innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs who spent six weeks learning how to transition their ideas into the marketplace. All 10 teams pitched their projects at the UGA I-Corps Fall 2020 Virtual Showcase, held Oct. 26.
This is the 10th cohort to participate in UGA Innovation Corps (I-Corps), the National Science Foundation-funded program administered by Innovation Gateway to identify valuable product opportunities based on university research.
“The diversity of UGA’s research enterprise was well-represented by the teams participating in I-Corps this semester,” said Tim Martin, associate director of the UGA Startup Program and lead I-Corps instructor. “We had startup ventures originating from eight different schools and colleges, as well as one from the community.”
Other research projects included a software plug-in for 3D computer animation, an innovative tool to measure seed planting depth, and a non-invasive method to diagnose respiratory diseases.
UGA Innovation Gateway was recently awarded a $100,000 supplemental I-Corps grant from NSF to deliver virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant also provides funding to expand the UGA I-Corps program to remote campuses and historically black colleges and universities in Georgia, develop innovation Boot Camps for underserved populations, and grow the UGA I-Corps Mentorship Program.
“Mentorship is essential to the long-term success of our early-stage I-Corps projects and later-stage startup companies,” said Daniel Geller, assistant director of Innovation Gateway and startup mentor program coordinator. “These necessary funds will be used to develop tools to facilitate a virtual mentors program for UGA I-Corps teams and provide stipends to high-level entrepreneurial mentors who will provide guidance to teams during their I-Corps experience.”