Newswise – ALBANY, NY (December 13, 2022) – University of Albany chemist Igor Lednev has received federal support that will bring his start-up one step closer to developing a new technology that can be used for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Early Alzheimer’s Diagnostics LLC, co-founded by Lednev and his son Alex, recently received a highly competitive NSF Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant. It will be used to accelerate the commercialization of a screening tool that tests saliva to detect early and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
The annual NSF STTR grant of $274,713 will support Phase I Proof of Concept. The program funds approximately 400 startups annually across the United States.
“Too many Americans have experienced the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease,” New York Congressman Paul Tonko said in a press release announcing the grants. “Early diagnosis can make a huge difference in ensuring access to treatment and significantly improving the quality of life for patients and their families. I have long been a leader in efforts to increase access to early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and I am proud that this innovative research is taking place here in the Capital Region.”
Focused on the laser
The Lednev Laboratory, located at the RNA Institute, has pioneered the use of Raman spectroscopy for forensics and medical diagnostics over the past decade.
Raman spectroscopy is an analytical technique in which stray light is used to obtain a molecular vibrational characterization of a sample. No two samples will generate the same Raman spectrum, offering a unique fingerprint-like measurement. Lednev’s innovative technology combines this approach with advanced statistics for testing body fluid samples such as saliva.
Lednev’s initial research has shown that near-infrared Raman spectroscopy, coupled with machine learning algorithms trained to distinguish spectral differences, can differentiate the biochemical composition of the saliva of Alzheimer’s patients and healthy individuals, as well as determine the stage of the disease.
Early Alzheimer’s Diagnostics LLC, a spinoff of the university, aims to commercialize the patented technology.
“By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be 65 or older. The number of people over 85 will triple. With such a growing number of elderly people in the country, there may be more demand for healthcare, home care and assisted living facilities,” said Lednev, a distinguished professor in the Department of Chemistry. “Our Alzheimer’s early diagnosis technology will be widely available, inexpensive and minimally invasive, allowing it to reach a large, asymptomatic patient population.
“This technology has the potential to extend early care for Alzheimer’s disease to millions of Americans, enabling intervention, monitoring, and treatment to begin many years earlier than is currently possible.”
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease
Following successful initial research results, Lednev co-founded Early Alzheimer’s Diagnostics LLC with his son Alex, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate with extensive experience in starting businesses, with his son Alex.
Alex serves as CEO and leads commercialization efforts. He recently attended the SUNY Startup Summer School, an 11-week training program designed to help experienced and future innovators and entrepreneurs bring their technology to market.
“Our research and development has the potential to offer a significant broader impact and benefit to society because of its potential to improve the health and well-being of the American public,” said Lednev. “We are excited to receive support from NSF that will allow us to prove the feasibility of our approach before releasing it to the public.”
UAlbany PhD student in chemistry, Luis Perez-Almodovar, will be the principal investigator for the NSF grant. Other researchers include Nicole Ralbovsky, a 2020 UAlbany graduate with a PhD in Chemistry who is now a senior scientist at Merck, and Anqesha Murray, a PhD student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The company is supported by the UAlbany Office of Innovation Development and Commercialization and the SUNY Research Foundation.
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