Frederick’s first and only science and technology incubator and accelerator, Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI), is a haven for visionaries like Dr. Xiaonao Liu, founder of NanoBioFAB. Dr. Liu first garnered acclaim co-leading a team that invented a novel high-throughput inkjet printing system for nano-material synthesis in her native China. She subsequently developed this technology in systems for CalTech and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The death of a close family member several years ago inspired Dr. Liu to take her research in a new direction: instant, accurate, non-invasive lung cancer detection.
Stirred to action, Dr. Liu enlisted her husband, a fellow scientist, Ruoting Yang, and established NanoBioFAB. The fledgling, woman-owned biotech company chose FITCI’s shared lab space as its base because of its high level of support, targeted programs, and cohesive culture. Dr. Liu’s participation in one particular program, the Strategic Growth and Advisory Board, made a significant impact on this emerging entrepreneur. Board feedback inspired her to explore other uses for this cutting-edge platform. They reasoned, such a tandem effort might buoy the notoriously long, arduous journey of bringing a new, vetted medical diagnostic to market.
Led by proven business leaders in related fields, the board offered guidance on business plans, intellectual property issues and go-to-market strategies. They supported Dr. Liu’s application to TEDCO, Maryland’s independent technology and economic development commission, and an invaluable state-wide resource. TEDCO offers needed resources and funding for entrepreneurs and start-ups in a two-fold effort to push the vanguard of innovation and augment the State’s highly competitive science sector.
Dr. Liu’s effort was a success. In September, her company earned a ($10,000) grant to develop a second health-related product, tentatively called iNose, now in the prototype stage. The invention utilizes NanoBioFAB’s highly sensitive nano-sensors to detect and analyze minute vaporous compounds given off by the skin while exercising. Results allow users to craft maximally efficient workouts.
Kathie Callahan Brady, FITCI’s CEO, characterizes the incubator/accelerator’s mentorship aspect as “tough love” coaching. “FITCI clients are some of the most brilliant scientists and innovators in their fields, but running a successful business is an entirely different realm.”
Callahan Brady has high praise for Dr. Liu and her mission to create insightful products for better health. “I’m so proud of her. This company is her passion. When she learned how difficult the original path would be, she was able to pivot and use her patented technology in a way that enables individuals to be healthier now, while still moving toward a future with better cancer diagnostics.” Callahan Brady continues, noting the common thread of FITCI clients’ drive to impact society in a positive way, “She has a heart for improving lives.”