Agro BioSciences Develops a New Weapon Against Disease

While Dr. Noah Zimmerman was serving as faculty in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, he was fascinated by the ways in which the foods we eat interact with our bodies. He spent much of his time studying the anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents of plant chemicals, such as those found in vegetables. Eventually, however, the research he was conducting came to a theoretical head: it was time to pursue a different course to bring his research into the lives of people who could benefit from it.

Dr. Zimmerman found entrepreneurship to be the perfect outlet for exploring the questions he simply didn't have the space to answer in academia. He connected with Tom Rehberger - an already-successful high-tech entrepreneur - along with a cross-disciplinary team of researchers to create Agro BioSciences. Their aim is to isolate particular strains of beneficial intestinal bacteria. These healthy microbes can help make the antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables we eat more available in our bodies, and thus, more effective in fighting off disease. Agro BioScience's ultimate goal is to bring these bacteria to health-conscious consumers seeking a leg up on disease prevention, potentially in the form of a pill. With billions of potential strains available, they have quite a task ahead of them. However, with their recent $224,000 National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research (NIH SBIR) award, they now have the funding they need to perform their research and come closer to providing the public with another weapon to ward off disease. 

Zimmerman credits the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) as one of their many allies in Agro BioScience's successful proposal. CTC Consultant Dave Linz knew the SBIR program could help take Dr. Zimmerman's research to the next level and encouraged him to apply for a grant. Zimmerman submitted a draft proposal to the CTC's review panel (in which a team of field experts read critique a proposal as if it were being evaluated at the federal level) and received useful feedback on how to improve Agro Bioscience's submission. According to Zimmerman, "It was easy to work with the CTC. Dave was both objective and encouraging, and very good at boiling down jargon and making our research comprehendible to the general public. Working with someone who knows the process was very beneficial … Even if you've written grants before, seek out the CTC's experience early on in the process - SBIRs are not your ordinary grants." 

One of the most exciting aspects of high-tech commercialization is its ability to transform research into viable products that can truly impact people's lives. The CTC congratulates Dr. Zimmerman and the Agro BioSciences team on their funding success and looks forward to seeing the progress they make in developing their product!