CrossLife was on an NCATS feature story about SBIR grantees and NIH I-Corps training.
NIH I-Corps Training Helps NCATS-Supported Companies Find Their Way
Learning what customers want
I-Corps has been a perfect fit for Nortis and for another NCATS SBIR-supported company, CrossLife Technologies, a six-year-old biotechnology company in Carlsbad, California. Scientists at CrossLife are developing a quick and easy bedside test to determine whether a person has dengue fever, a potentially life-threatening mosquito-borne illness caused by a virus. Detecting the virus early can lead to more effective treatment.
Dengue fever is found primarily in tropical climates in Southeast Asia, Africa and Central and South America. CrossLife founder and chief executive officer HyunDae Cho, Ph.D., a biochemist, said that current tests — often unavailable in areas affected by dengue virus — do not always provide an accurate diagnosis. CrossLife researchers are developing a simpler technology that uses a paper dipstick probe to detect the virus in the blood, enabling a diagnosis in 30 minutes.
Cho and his colleagues originally thought their customers would be the companies developing dengue fever vaccines. But after interviewing more than 110 potential customers — including village hospital doctors in Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America, as well as vaccine developers and distributors — they quickly realized they had made a mistake. Vaccine companies weren’t interested, but nongovernmental organizations and physicians in those regions wanted a test to diagnose and treat patients as quickly as possible. Cho and his team had to rethink their product idea and focus on a new customer base.
Cho said the company learned a great deal from I-Corps training, including the complexities of taking a product from the lab to the marketplace, and how markets and regulatory landscapes can differ from country to country. “The I-Corps program helped us discover who our customers are and what they want. It also provided a better understanding of the translational path for our product,” he said. Cho has already applied for a second SBIR grant, which would enable CrossLife scientists to develop and evaluate the test further.