University of Iowa spinoff Cardio Diagnostics Inc., a company that assesses genetic and epigenetic DNA markers to monitor a patient's risk for heart disease, was recently selected a “one to watch” in this year’s inaugural Spinoff Prize, organized by Nature Research and Merck KGaA.

Cardio Diagnostics logo

The prize is intended to showcase and celebrate global excellence in the commercialization of research through the creation of spinoff companies. The Spinoff Prize was awarded to 12 finalists and 32 additional early-stage startups (including Cardio Diagnostics) that were recognized for their ability to “translate original, high-quality scientific research into products and services that address market problems and are well positioned to make a positive impact on society.”

This year’s Spinoff Prize focused on companies commercializing research in four broad categories: pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemicals and digital technologies. Nature’s press release about the award is available here

Founded in 2017 and headquartered in the UI Research Park in Coralville, Cardio Diagnostics Inc. focuses on human health by developing and commercializing patent-pending, precision medicine tools for the prevention of heart disease and stroke. The company harnesses artificial intelligence and DNA-based biosignatures to assess risk, personalize management, and monitor response for cardiovascular disease.

Heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States, respectively, and are responsible for one in every four deaths. It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by early medication and lifestyle interventions.

Meesha Dogan, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the UI and Cardio Diagnostics’ co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, said the company’s hunt for effective treatments is of both professional and personal interest. Her family has a history of heart disease.

“We want to help prevent others from experiencing the devastating impacts of heart disease,” she said of her team, which brings expertise in both medicine and engineering to the task. Dogan—along with Rob Philibert, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of psychiatry and company co-founder and Chief Medical Officer—co-invented the core technologies being further developed by Cardio Diagnostics for cardiovascular disease prevention while at the UI. Cardio Diagnostics’ first product, Epi+Gen CHD, which is an at-home clinical test for assessing a patient’s three-year risk of having a heart attack, will be launching in October 2020.

Marie Kerbeshian, executive director of the UI Research Foundation, said the initial research behind Cardio Diagnostics’ invention was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was disclosed to the UIRF in 2016, and was licensed by the university to Cardio Diagnostics in 2017.

“Their discovery represents a nice cross-college collaboration between psychiatry and biomedical engineering,” Kerbeshian said. “While publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals is an important aspect of academia, licensing intellectual property is another way the university is able to spread the impact of its research.”

Not only did the work by Cardio Diagnostics garner recognition from the state of Iowa in 2019, when it won the IowaBIO Biotech Innovation Showcase Award, but “now it’s positioned to translate UI-invented innovations into a diagnostic that will have direct impact for patients,” she said.

The UI Research Foundation is part of the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research, which provides researchers and scholars with resources, guidance, and inspiration to secure funding, collaborate, innovate, and forge frontiers of discovery that benefit everyone. More at http://research.uiowa.edu, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.