University of Arizona Startups Selected for Flinn Foundation Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program

April 8, 2024

Companies spun out through university commercialization continue to make strides toward success and impact.

DNA double helix suprimposed on a vial of blood for testing.

Two startups launched to commercialize inventions created through research at the University of Arizona have been selected to participate in the exclusive Flinn Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program. Through the program, each will receive $30,000 in non-dilutive funding in conjunction with a professionally developed, one-year plan to help them advance their companies and technologies, and become investor-ready. Participants gain access to an exclusive network, enabling interactions with key leaders in the state's bioscience, academic, and policy sectors. Entrance into the program also includes a one-year membership in both Arizona's Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee and the Arizona Bioindustry Association. 

“This is a highly competitive program, so when a company is selected to participate, it’s a great validation not only of their achievements to date, but it’s also an indicator of its future potential and the impact it will have for patients in Arizona and around the world,” said Tech Launch Arizona Director of Venture Development Bruce Burgess. “We’re very proud of each of these teams and look forward to seeing them advance their business toward improving health and quality of life.”

Metfora is developing a blood test to differentially diagnose four lung diseases from a single blood draw. Targeted diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, and asthma. Founded to commercialize technology developed in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Metfora was spun out through Tech Launch Arizona (TLA).  

“We are honored to be awarded the Bioscience Entrepreneurship grant by the Flinn Foundation,” said Martin Fuchs, chief executive officer of Metfora.“ The Foundation supported Metfora at its inception with a seed grant and we are delighted to receive this award signaling the Flinn Foundation’s continued support for our efforts to bring a powerful new diagnostics technology to market.  We are grateful for their visionary leadership and commitment to supporting the biosciences in Arizona.”

Precision Epigenomics Inc., a molecular diagnostic company that features liquid biopsy tests, has developed a multi-cancer detection test called EPISEEKTM. This approach directly identifies cancer-specific methylation regions within the human genome. The technology was originally invented through research performed at the UArizona College of Pharmacy, the UA Cancer Center and the BIO5 Institute, and was also commercialized through TLA. 

"We are honored to be recognized by the Flinn Foundation for our innovative approach to earlier cancer detection and to have the opportunity to work with the AZ Bioscience Roadmap team. The currently recommended conventional screening methods for cancer underperform and they do not detect most cancer types that are killing people," said Mark Nelson, Ph.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of Precision Epigenomics. "Our goal is to change the way cancers are detected."

The two companies were spawned from different corners of University of Arizona Health Sciences. In both cases, teams of inventors worked with TLA on intellectual property protection, startup team formation, and business strategy development. As the university’s commercialization arm whose mission is to commercialize inventions stemming from UArizona research and innovation, TLA has spun out over 135 companies since the office was founded in 2013. 

Both startups have also benefited from participation in the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, the university’s incubator that helps science and technology-focused ventures by providing the people, programming, and space needed to successfully launch and scale.

This year, Flinn accepted a total of six companies into the program. Since 2014, the Flinn Foundation has conducted a competitive process and had 66 Arizona bioscience companies participate in the program. Through the course of program’s 11 cohorts awarded companies have been granted nearly $2 million in funding support through the foundation’s nonprofit partners.

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications