The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1 million grant to IQuity, a Nashville-based company looking into novel RNA targets that ultimately benefit patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune disorders.
The NIH grant is part of the institute’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. It will help fund the analysis of a class of molecules called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), as well as the development of tests that may help doctors diagnose MS and monitor disease progression.
These lncRNAs are produced within cells that are believed to, among other functions, control the expression of certain genes.
IQuity aims to design and produce RNA-based blood tests to assist in diagnosing MS, inflammatory bowel disease and fibromyalgia. The company has already launched a test for MS patients, the IsolateMS test, and plans to deliver two more tests for patients with gastric and rheumatic conditions later this year.
Research supporting IQuity’s work began with its co-founders, Chase Spurlock and Tom Aune, at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“It’s a thrill to see the work that started at Vanderbilt years ago result in life-changing tests that we are successfully bringing to market,” Spurlock said in a release provided to Multiple Sclerosis News Today. “Exploring the potential for lncRNAs to monitor the progression of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis, will enable us to provide another suite of tools for providers who diagnose and treat these complex conditions.”
The SBIR program funds research that may support novel technologies with commercial value. This is the third time IQuity has received an SBIR grant. A $150,000 grant awarded earlier this year helped IQ look into the different role of lncRNAs in fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
“The best way for patients living with debilitating autoimmune diseases to lead happier, healthier lives is to receive an early, accurate diagnosis,” Spurlock said. “Evidence shows relapses are often not as severe or frequent when a definitive diagnosis is made early in the disease process and tailored treatment options are started sooner.”
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