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Breakout Labs Backs Tissue Engineering, Diagnostic Start-Ups

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Breakout Labs, an early-stage revolving fund for life sciences start-ups, revealed three new grant recipients planning to develop solutions with advanced technologies. Breakout Labs is a program of the Thiel Foundation, founded by entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel — co-founder of PayPal and early venture backer of Facebook — in October 2011.

The new recipients include Modern Meadow in Columbia, Missouri developing a process for creating meat and leather products with animal protein generated by tissue engineering and three-dimensional bio printing. The founders, including University of Missouri biophysics professor Gabor Forgacs, aim to develop an edible cultured meat prototype and hide substitute that provides a humane and sustainable source of animal protein to consumers.

Bell Biosystems is a Palo Alto, California company developing a technology based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to tag and track the movement of cells in animals, and eventually humans. The company, founded by recent Stanford biochemistry Ph.D. Caleb Bell, incorporates magnetic components in cells that can replicate as the cells replicate. The tagged cells can then be tracked outside the body with MRI scans.

Entopsis in Huntsville, Alabama is building a diagnostics platform that the company says will be able to detect and describe a variety of diseases to encourage effective and personalized treatments. The company, says founders Obdulio Piloto and Ian Cheong, is initially focusing on oncology, autoimmune disorders, and rare malignancies. Entopsis aims to develop a low-cost, nano-engineered technology for diagnosing multiple diseases from a single specimen sample.

Breakout Labs provides grants of up to $350,000 per recipient to early stage companies with innovative solutions involving the life sciences and advanced technology. The program says it seeks proposals on topics outside of the federal funding mainstream, and those creating new types of technology platforms, including advances in instrumentation, assays, or biological interventions. While Breakout Labs normally funds early-stage enterprises, it will also consider support for companies seeking to cross the “valley of death” between proof-of-concept and commercialization.

Financing from Breakout Labs operates on a revolving fund model. The Breakout Labs grant agreement asks funded companies that retain the intellectual property from their projects to commit a modest royalty stream and an option for a small investment in their company to Breakout Labs. The funders also ask grantees to submit their funded research for open-access publication within six months following the end of the grant.

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