Editor’s note: Startup Spotlight is a regular feature at WRAL TechWire, bringing attention to promising emerging companies across the Triangle and North Carolina as well as management and other issues.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Cary-based Atom Bioworks (Atombio) has been selected as one of 14 promising global life-sciences startups to participate in the BioTools Innovator Accelerator program.

It’s a four-month virtual affair that provides in-depth customized mentorship and support from senior industry leaders, peer engagement, and the opportunity to win a $250,000 grand prize and the title of 2022 BioTools Innovator.

“We launched BioTools Innovator to fill a gap in the life sciences industry where promising technologies falter due to lack of sophisticated guidance that prevents entrepreneurs from making avoidable mistakes,” said Kathryn Zavala, managing director of the organization. “These 14 companies represent the next frontier of innovative technologies that will help us develop solutions to diagnose and treat diseases more effectively and live healthier.”

Atom Bioworks

Atombio uses artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to create specific pattern-matching nanostructures from which to identify and treat cancer and infectious diseases, like COVID-19. The company said it has developed a DNA scaffold design platform that can selectively bind to virus targets or tumor cells. The platform can be directed at multiple classes of viruses and a variety of tumor cell types so that clients can develop targeted immunotherapies.

Atombio received a $248,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in 2020 to further its efforts to design a rapid diagnostic for COVID-19. It and partner researchers already have used nanotechnology and artificial intelligence to develop a five-pointed DNA star structure to test for Dengue fever and other mosquito-borne viruses.

Atombio was among several promising synthetic biology companies backed by Y-combinator last winter. It has raised $3 million in venture capital since 2021, and another $2 million from National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research programs.

Atom Bioworks among a select group of innovators

The 14 startups selected for the BioTools Innovator program were chosen from more than 160 applicants in 23 countries and 28 states in the U.S. Five of the companies will be picked for a final competition that will take place during the BioTools Innovator Capstone Event on October 13. There senior executives, investors and top industry decision makers will determine the BioTools Innovator for 2022, which will be awarded the $250,000 non-dilutive grand prize.

In addition to Atombio, the companies include:  Ananda Devices – Laval, Quebec, Canada; Cellbox Solutions – Hamburg/Norderstedt, Germany; CellChorus – Houston and San Carlos, California; Dalton Bioanalytics – Los Angeles, California; DropGenie – Montreal, Canada and Boston, Massachusetts;  Ferrologix – Carlsbad, California; GenNext Technologies – Half Moon Bay, California; Kolibri – Paris, France; Opera Bioscience – Evanston, Illinois; RealSeq Biosciences – Santa Cruz, California; Sequegenics – Atlanta, Georgia; xMDDiagnostics – Baltimore, Maryland; and Zymvol Biomodeling – Barcelona, Spain.

About BioTools Innovator

BioTools Innovator was established two years ago to advance leading research to improve human health by speeding up the growth of a wide range of life sciences tools and diagnostics. It provides mentorship and support by matching industry leaders with innovative early stage and emerging growth biotechnology companies.

More coverage:

Cary startup Atom Bioworks to join virtual BioTools Innovator accelerator program, compete for $250k