Advanced Silicon Group Awarded Competitive Grant from National Science Foundation

Advanced Silicon Group (ASG), a company formed through research at the College of Engineering, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for $225,000 in collaboration with the University of Iowa to conduct research and development (R&D) work on using silicon nanowire arrays for the sensitive and simultaneous detection of multiple biomarkers for the identification of lung cancer by a blood sample.

University of Iowa Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Fatima Toor conceived the idea—a silicon-nanowire-array optoelectronic cartridge for cancer biomarker detection—and worked to assemble a group of principals to form the company.

Lung cancer caused over 1.6 million deaths worldwide in 2016 and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.  The NIH estimates the direct costs of lung cancer treatment in the U.S. at $13.4 billion in 2015, with much higher indirect societal costs.  Expensive, painful, and risky biopsies are presently needed to diagnose and type lung cancer for treatment.  Thus, the effect of therapy on the cancer a patient is fighting is not monitored regularly.  ASG’s silicon nanowire technology promises to sensitively measure multiple biomarkers from a blood test allowing doctors to track the progress of targeted therapy.  ASG has demonstrated the ability to detect biomarkers using their nanowire sensor and the work performed under this grant is intended to develop this capability for detection of lung cancer biomarkers.  This has the potential for earlier, less invasive, and less expensive testing with a more precise diagnosis leading to better outcomes and lower costs for patients and society.

“The National Science Foundation supports small businesses with the most innovative, cutting-edge ideas that have the potential to become great commercial successes and make huge societal impacts,” said Barry Johnson, Director of the NSF’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. “We hope that this seed funding will spark solutions to some of the most important challenges of our time across all areas of science and technology.”

“ASG is very excited to be able to apply our silicon nanowire technology through this grant to the important application of the diagnosis of lung cancer and eventually other diseases,” said Dr. Marcie Black, CEO of ASG.

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $225,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Fatima Toor