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CUBoulder startup company receives


Gates Foundation exploration grant
November 2, 2012 3:54 pm by Channel 1 Networks, under Boulder Startup, Business, CU News, Health,
Fitness & Medical, Tech & Science. 0 Comments
A new startup company that sprang from the University of Colorado Boulder this year is a Grand Challenges
Exploration winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Psychology and neurosciences department Associate Professor Don Cooper, cofounder and chief science officer of
Mobile Assay Inc. of Boulder who developed the technology in his laboratory at CUs Institute for Behavioral
Genetics, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled A Lab on Mobile
Device Platform for Seed Testing.
Grand Challenges Explorations, or GCE, funds individuals
worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of
the worlds toughest and most persistent global health and
development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of
bold ideas that have real potential to solve problems people
in the developing world face every day. Cooper and Mobile
Assay Inc. are one of more than 80 Grand Challenges
Exploration Round 9 grants for $100,000 each announced
today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Coopers Mobile Assay Inc. team has developed new
technology which includes using mobile devices, test
strips (similar to pregnancy test strips), geographical tagging and cloud computing to rapidly detect, quantify
and track common seedborne pathogens in real time to address the economic impact of seedborne diseases in
developing countries. This will ultimately allow farmers in developing countries to identify and track pathogens
infecting seeds and share their data, which could improve crop yields and prevent crop losses, he said.

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Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off, said Chris Wilson, director of the
Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We continue to be
impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic
about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health
of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy
productive life.
To receive funding, Grand Challenge Exploration Round 9 winners demonstrated in a twopage online application
a creative idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas that included agricultural
development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges
Exploration round 10, will be accepted through Nov. 7, 2012.
Test strips are typically plastic with chemically impregnated pads designed to react with specific antibodies to
produce a specific visual signal. Once the reaction takes place, the strip is developed in less than 10 minutes and
the visual signal is quantified using the camera on a smartphone or mobile tablet device and proprietary
software. There are now Lab on Mobile Devicecompatible tests strips that are used to identify more than 1,000
different pathogens and pollutants.
A crucial part of the LMD project developed by Cooper and his team is Mobile Image Ratiometry, or MIR, which is
a unique software algorithm that analyzes images and can precisely quantify the level of infection of crop
pathogens, which are then mapped and shared via cloud computing that uses both software and hardware over
the Internet. The LMD technology will allow for the creation of electronic pushpin maps where data will be
made available on an openly shared website, enabling anyone to upload results and track outbreaks and
infestations of seedborne pathogens, ultimately helping people better regulate the informal exchanges of seeds,

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Boulder Channel 1 CU-Boulder startup company receives Gates Foundation exploration grant
he said.
Cooper said the team will initially target the fungus Botrytis which can
devastate crops like yams, potatoes, wheat, soybeans, onions and sorghum
around the world as well as aflotoxins, which can contaminate seeds
during storage and which are among the most carcinogenic substances
known. Cooper said the MIR imaging technology can be used to increase the
sensitivity of test strips including those for Botrytis and for aflotoxins
produced by Aspergillis fungi by a factor of 100.
Experts estimate seedborne diseases cause a loss of 50 million tons of food
annually and that losses in developing countries are 60 to 80 percent higher
than in industrialized countries. Estimates show 90 to 95 percent of seed
used by smallscale and subsistence farmers is acquired through informal
sources at the farm and community level.

It is estimated that by 2015 there will be more than 2 billion people in the
world using smartphones, including more than 40 percent of the people in
Africa. The Mobile Assay Inc. team also is developing a web application
capable of performing test image analysis for those without smartphones but who have cell phones with cameras.
Such an application would be extremely useful in Africa, said Cooper, where there are now an estimated 700
million cell phone subscribers nearly 70 percent of the continents population. The vast majority of cell phones
today are equipped with cameras.
CU owns exclusive license to the technology developed by Cooper and his team and has an equity share in Mobile
Assay Inc. Cooper and Lee Burnett, the CEO of Mobile Assay Inc., worked closely with CUs Technology Transfer
Office, CUs Entrepreneurial Law Clinic and the Innovation Center of the Rockies to develop a corporate structure
and commercialization plans for the CU spinoff company.
Cooper said Mobile Assay Inc. will seek matching funds for the first phase of the project from the Colorado Office
of Economic Development and International Trade. In addition to the Gates Foundation grant for seed testing,
Mobile Assay Inc. is in the process of applying the companys new technology to detect water pollutants, drugs,
contaminants in dairy products and other biological and chemical pathogens across the globe.
The LMD platform, which can target multiple pathogens like fungi, bacteria and parasites, also could conceivably
be used to help monitor chronic diseases in humans, Cooper said. While ill people often go to doctors for
diagnoses and additional tests that can take days or weeks, a number of health tests ranging from high
cholesterol to abnormal thyroidstimulating hormone levels could be conducted at home using specific test strips,
with the data made available immediately to their health care providers over the Internet.
Grand Challenges Explorations is a $100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant
program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile,
accelerated grantmaking process with short twopage online applications and no preliminary data required.
Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a
followon grant of up to $1 million.
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