Modified DNA Startup Awarded Competitive Seed Grant
NC State startup DNAli Data Technologies was one of six startup companies announced as a recipient of NC IDEA’s SEED grant for its Fall 2023 cycle.
NC State startup DNAli Data Technologies was one of six startup companies announced as a recipient of NC IDEA’s SEED grant for its Fall 2023 cycle. A private foundation that supports North Carolina-based entrepreneurs and companies poised to make an impact, NC IDEA’s SEED grant provides non-dilutive awards to early-stage companies seeking to grow and scale quickly. 100 plus companies from across the state apply for SEED funding during each of its two annual funding rounds, with five to seven awardees chosen each cycle.
DNAli, a startup launched based on interdisciplinary research from NC State’s College of Engineering, is developing a technology that enables production of chemically modified DNA not previously possible and affordable production of all modified DNAs. Modified DNA plays a key role in scientific advances in research, molecular diagnostics, and cell-based manufacturing, but existing synthesis methods are limited in their ability to synthesize modified DNAs and those DNAs that can be produced are often unaffordable. DNAli uses a proprietary biological process to create robust, modified DNA, unlocking the over 99% of DNAs not previously able to be made, and with a drastically reduced turnaround time and price point compared to conventional methods.
Albert Keung, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received funding from NC State’s Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) in 2023 to support work involving optimization of the modified DNA production process to achieve commercially-relevant benchmarks comparable to existing industry standards. DNAli – which was launched in 2021 based on a DNA-based data storage innovation from Keung; James Tuck, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Kyle Tomek, a CBE PhD alumnus – cited the support of ORC programming in helping the company to build a strong foundation for market-relevant technology development.
“The ORC’s work in bringing and connecting university scientists and engineers with opportunities to train and pursue commercialization of their technology has been instrumental in our growth as entrepreneurs and for DNAli as a company.” Tomek said. “The NSF I-Corp program at NC State got us started both learning about entrepreneurship and honing the identification of the core competencies and customer problems that DNAli’s technologies solve. And the CIF program provided us the resources to develop that technology to a point where we could produce actual products customers can buy and demonstrate their advanced properties over industry standards.” The company also received support from ORC’s SparkPlug Program in 2021 and won one of the top three prizes in NC State’s 2022 Daugherty Endowment business plan competition.