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Wayne State University Bioinformatics Spin-out, Advaita, Leverages Seed Funding

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Advaita Corp., a spinoff from Wayne State University that makes software to help university researchers and pharmaceutical companies better manage genomic data, has started raising a seed round of $1 million and been making the rounds at medical conferences and business-plan competitions.

The company expects to finish raising the seed fund in the next six months to build out its sales and business development team and raise a venture capital round of $5 million in 2015, the same year it expects to break even. That’s according to Andrew Olson, Advaita’s vice president for business development.

The company was a presenter at the annual MichBio Expo in Kalamazoo in October, a semifinalist at the annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation competition in Detroit earlier this month and is being vetted by the Detroit Innovate Fund I for possible investment.

Advaita rented a booth at the big American Society of Human Genetics show in Boston in October and is planning to attend trade shows in Romania and England in May.

The company, which was legally formed in 2005 but didn’t get officially licensed by the tech transfer office at WSU until 2011, has one patent issued and two pending. It offers a software product called Pathway-Guide, which helps researchers identify mechanisms of action in disease for potential drugs and possible side effects based on genomic data and published results from gene-expression experiments.

Large federal grants garnered by WSU Professor Sorin Draghici, the company’s founder and CEO, are a major source of validation for Advaita’s technology.

Those include a Small Business Technology Transfer grant of nearly $2.4 million from the National Institutes of Health, with the first phase of $150,000 in 2009 and the second phase of $2.2 million in 2009, and an NIH Small Business Innovation Research grant of $2 million earlier this year. 

In October 2012, Advaita got a grant of $125,000 from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund.

Lenka Fedorkova, assistant manager of the SBIR and tech transfer programs for the NIH, said Advaita’s grant requests stood out because of a more sophisticated business plan and awareness of the market and market opportunities than often accompany requests from academics.

“Advaita demonstrated a high level of maturity for an early-stage company,” she said. “It demonstrated it had developed the technology to the point where it was ready for commercialization, and it had a well-rounded management team, which is not always the case with companies we fund at the NIH.”

Fedorkova said that being a bioinformatics company was also key, meaning it uses areas of computer science, mathematics and engineering to review biological data.

Olson said the company has about $3 million left from its grants, which will fund R&D for the foreseeable future.

The company has 10 employees, including five software developers, and plans to hire two more Java developers. It is based in a house Draghici owns in Salem Township. The revenue is small, about $30,000 this year, but important in that it comes from university researchers who have been giving the company advice on how to improve the software and can offer testimonials to other potential customers.

The company’s business plan calls for it to be sold to a bioinformatics company in four to five years.

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