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Rutgers Signs Exclusive License with Startup NanoInk Imaging

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey has signed an exclusive license with the startup NanoInk Imaging, which is advancing an optical imaging technology based on Rutgers’ patented nanoprobes that enable imaging in the short-wave infrared range. Imaging over this new optical window provides target-specific, high contrast visualization of small tumors. 

NanoInk’s first platform will be focused on the pre-clinical research and drug discovery market, where the technology would enable researchers to better monitor tumor responses to experimental drugs in small animal tumor models. According to the company’s website, this would provide stronger therapy-response correlations as well as improved reliability and replicability in preclinical research, thus speeding up the drug discovery process.

The second strategic direction will be in the clinical space, where the technology will help guide cancer surgeons in the OR by allowing them to better visualize cancers and tumor margins, thus improving the quality of cancer surgery outcomes and reducing re-operation rates.

“NanoInk Imaging is working to change how cancer is researched and surgically treated,” said Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, PhD, Associate Vice President of Innovation Ventures, the technology transfer team within Rutgers’ Office for Research that negotiated the license with NanoInk. “The technology originated at Rutgers and the company’s leadership is working closely with the university to further develop it. It’s an example of how Rutgers’ innovation ecosystem nurtures and supports entrepreneurs and developing companies as they find solutions to the world’s challenges.”

The NanoInk team was supported by Innovation Ventures to participate in several entrepreneurial training and accelerator programs, including the TechAdvance™ fund and NSF’s I-Corps program at Rutgers and nationally as well as Berkeley SkyDeck and NIH’s C3i programs. The technology that was licensed to the company is being further developed in part through HealthAdvance™, a gap funding program co-sponsored by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) to Rutgers.

This support allowed the team to understand the commercial potential of the technology and its ability to address unmet needs in the marketplace. Moving forward, NanoInk is planning to leverage the resources and expertise available within the university’s ecosystem, including Rutgers School of Engineering, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and the Molecular Imaging Core, to further de-risk this technology and put together a compelling story for potential investors and partners. 

The nanoprobes were conceived by Rutgers inventors Prabhas Moghe, PhD and Richard Riman, PhD, both Distinguished Professors in the School of Engineering. Other key contributors were Charles Roth, PhD, professor at Rutgers School of Engineering; post-doctoral engineering fellow Mei-Chee Tan, PhD, currently a faculty at the Singapore University of Technology and Design; and Dominik Naczynski, a graduate alumnus of Rutgers. 

“Innovation Ventures has been instrumental in the launch of the company,” said NanoInk founders Mark Ravera, PhD/MBA and Ameena Alam-Moghe, MS/MBA, both Rutgers alums. “It was at the I-Corps Site program at Rutgers where we started to build a business model and define the market potential of the technology. Being able to participate in all of these programs allowed us to conduct a strong diligence process on the imaging technology for both the clinical and drug discovery markets prior to licensing.”

“Nanoink’s technology is a great success story coming out of Innovation Ventures' gap funding programs,” said Pragati Sharma, PhD, Associate Director of Commercialization Funding, part of Innovation Ventures. “In addition to providing funding for development work, this service helps the innovators gather critical input from interactions with industry reviewers as well as feedback from expert mentors engaged by the programs.”

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