Startup Breathes Life into Bio IoT

Article By : Rick Merritt, EE Times

Startup Nano Global partnered with ARM to design SoCs than can detect and scrub pathogens in a wide range of medical and IoT products.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nano Global hopes to enable a kind of Internet of Biological Things. The startup struck a partnership with ARM to design a family of SoCs that can monitor and maybe even scrub pathogens in products that range from smartphones and toys to fans, bandages and medical devices.

Nano (Austin, Texas) aims to make the world a kind of living lab for drug and disease research. In the process, it hopes to create a digital marketplace where consumers and researchers buy, sell and share molecular data.

As if those plans are not ambitious enough, Nano’s approach will use optics and artificial intelligence at the chip level to identify organisms. It will tap blockchain authentication to secure transactions for its open, global molecular database.

Its early days for the startup given first chips will not hit the market for a year. Besides ARM, the company announced partnerships with a handful of universities and suggested many more partners will be needed to enable its broad business model.

Funding is also a work-in-progress with an undisclosed amount raised from investor Mark Cuban and others that may include ARM’s parent, Softbank and its Vision Fund. Another round is expected to close before April for the company founded in 2015.

For now, the company is keeping most details of its chips, partners and funding under wraps. But it is long on vision.

“We want to open up a vast new marketplace of real-life, real-time molecular data — that’s far bigger than the Internet of Things,” said Steve Papermaster, CEO both of Nano and of Powershift Group, a venture investment company that is the startup’s other announced backer.

Nano hopes such a marketplace could accelerate research on drugs and medical devices that currently rely on relatively limited, proprietary lab work. “This turns their pockets inside out…We seek to partner with a lot of these companies,” Papermaster said.

It’s a big but not entirely novel idea. Project Baseline from Verily Life Sciences LLC aims to map human health data generally.  23andMe is taking a similar approach for DNA, as is uBiome for microbiome data, noted Julien Penders, a former medtech researcher for the Imec institute in Belgium and now a co-founder and chief operating officer of startup Bloomlife.

With all such efforts, “it’s important to accurately assess the quality and trustworthiness of the data, capture the context of the measurements and establish clear end-points against which the data can be mined and analyzed,” said Penders, who was not familiar with Nano Global.


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