Published May 5, 2009
A group of young entrepreneurs led by Krishnan Chakravarthy, an MD/PhD candidate in the school’s MD-PhD Program, has launched NanoAxis, a new research and development company headquartered in Getzville, New York.
The company seeks to apply advances in nanotechnology to drug and gene delivery and to customized medical devices.
The group’s efforts focus on a revolutionary biomedical tool called “quantum dots,” extremely tiny crystalline structures that researchers initially developed in the 1980s for computing applications.
Quantum dots fluoresce brighter and longer than conventional organic materials, making them potentially invaluable tools for medical imaging. They can be engineered to an almost limitless variety of shapes, enabling them to carry antibodies, proteins and chemotherapeutic agents. Their photophysical and payload capacities can even be combined to image and treat disease simultaneously.
Thus far, NanoAxis’ AxiCad quantum dots have proved valuable, according to Chakravarthy, “most especially in ex vivo diagnostics, such as flow cytometers and microarray technology.”
Because most quantum dots are made from cadmium, which is toxic, developing in vivo applications presents additional hurdles. NanoAxis does produce cadmium-free structures, but is also working to find ways to make the highly effective cadmium-based quantum dots safe for use in the body. With this improvement, Chakravarthy says, “quantum dots may replace conventional targeting methods, such as adenoviral vectors, and provide a truly novel form of gene therapy. We hope to take the lead in the area of infectious disease research.”
The startup owns two patents and has submitted applications for three more. Two of these cover docking technology related to drug and gene delivery that NanoAxis will acquire from UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer, and Economic Outreach (STOR).
“Our long-term goal is to be a leader in integrating nanotechnology into the art of medicine and to build a company that can be a foundation for jobs and economic development in Western New York,” says Chakravarthy, a native of Williamsville, New York.
In the spring of 2008, the founding members of NanoAxis—who, in addition to Chakravarthy, include Darren Leskiw, Indrajit Roy, PhD, and Thomas Sass—won first place in the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. The competition, sponsored by the UB School of Management, awards $25,000 in seed money and services to the team that presents the best plan to launch a new business.
The competition stipulates that teams partner with a UB MBA graduate. To meet this requirement, Chakravarthy, president and CEO of NanoAxis, connected with Sass, who now serves as vice president of business development, and Leskiw, who became vice president of operations. The group then recruited Roy to serve as product development manager. A nanomaterials and physical chemist by training, Roy is a research assistant professor and deputy director of the UB Institute of Lasers, Photonics and Biophonics.
Paul R. Knight III, MD, PhD, UB professor of anesthesiology and microbiology and immunology, serves on the scientific board for NanoAxis along with Paras N. Prasad, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, the institute’s executive director.
“I entered the Panasci Competition in the first place because of my goal to be a successful physician-scientist, a goal that has been wholeheartedly supported by my mentor, Dr. Paul Knight,” says Chakravarthy. “He has been a tremendous source of guidance and has allowed me to explore all aspects of being a physician-scientist, including the entrepreneurial side.”