The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been leading the battle against illnesses by funding thousands of biomedical research projects. It has made progress in many different sectors such as cancer, mental illnesses, heart disease, and numerous other health concerns.
NIH invests over $30 billion per year in funding research that enhances health, reduce disability and illnesses, and lengthen life. The NIH has been pursuing the mission of promoting prevention and treatment and expanding biomedical knowledge base by facilitating cutting-edge research and contributing to the biomedical workforce.
Today, a number of private companies are now tapping into this sources of financing for research projects and innovation that they cannot afford to fund on their own. They're taking advantage of a small fraction of the NIH grant annual funding that goes to individual scientists and for-profit companies. Firms that have received funding from NIH have not only been able to complete their projects but also boost their credibility and profiles in their respective niches.
The NIH awards funding to private firms through the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant programs. These are specifically set aside for promoting the development of new innovative technology into commercial products by private firms. One such innovation that was funded by the NIH-SBIR Grants is the Neuron Reconstruction and 3-D Brain Mapping technology by MBF Bioscience (1).
Neuron Reconstruction and 3-D Brain Mapping technology
MBF Bioscience (2) is Biotechnology Company whose success has been greatly attributed to the NIH-SBIR funding. The company is based in Vermont and designs renowned quantitative microscope imaging systems used for quantifying the neuronal structure and counting cells.
The company was founded in 1987 by Jack Glaser, a computer scientist and Edmund Glaser, a neuroscientist, with the aim of developing a computer software that can trace neurons in 3D. Edmund had previously developed a mini-computer monitor which attached to a standard microscope while Jack had purposed to develop a software that could connect the microscope to the PC.
The company was awarded its first NIH SBIR grant in 1988 which helped it to grow incrementally by creating more products and hiring more permanent employees. They used the SBIR funding to create innovative solutions that have quickly changed how research is done today.
MBF opened its first operations in Europe back in the late 1990's and launched its first proprietary product Neurolucida and later expanded to Japan. The company received their Fast-track SBIR grant which allowed them to develop an automatic tracing technology called AutoNeuron. This was built upon on the Neurolucida concept.
The company rebranded from MicroBrightField Inc. to MBF Bioscience in 2005. MBF Bioscience has quickly grown into a global brand with a 10 million dollar valuation with offices in Europe, North and South America, Japan, China, and Brazil.
Today, MBF has over 34 full-time employees and 5 interns with dealer network active in 5 continents. The company's technology is available in 1,500 labs across 44 countries. More than 9,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers have cited the use of MBF technologies for data collection and analysis.
This is one of the company's leading products which creates and analyzes meaningful, quantifiable and realistic 3D and 2D neuron reconstruction from microscope images. Neuroscientists have been using this technology to get reliable data analyses for more than 25 years.
MBF has been able to utilize the NIH SBIR Phase I & II, Phase IIB and Fast-Track funding mechanisms to develop Neurolucida and other follow-on products. The company has received more than 12 million dollars in total from NIH SBIR funding for R&D to create and advance their software systems.
The Neurolucida technology can perform detailed analysis of neurons including quantifying the volume, length, and width of axons and dendrites; the number of axons, dendrites, synapse, spines and branches; and the extension and complexity of neurons (3).
Other innovative technologies developed by MBF following Neurolucida include
• Stereo Investigator which gives accurate estimates of the length, volume, number and length of cells or structures in tissue samples.
• WormLab: A technology for imaging, tracking and analyzing worms.
• AutoNeuron: this is an extension for Neurolucida, used to trace neurons from image stacks which reduces effort and time.
MBF Bioscience has won a number of prestigious awards including the Tibbetts Award. Jack Glaser was also named the Vermont Small Business Person of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2007 for his exceptional leadership.
The company also makes notable contribution to the local Vermont economy by creating jobs and mentoring college students. MBF has also earned a distinction of creating one of the best workplaces in Vermont in 2007, 2009, & 2010.
NIH grant proposal writing
NIH grants are fundamental in helping companies like MBF Bioscience pursue innovative ideas and develop great solutions. However, NIH grant applications are getting more competitive each year. This is mainly due to an increasing number of applicants, decreased funds, competitive markets, and low acceptance rates.
Private companies like MBF Bioscience now need to come up with exceptional ideas and write equally outstanding grant proposals in order to successfully win SBIR grants. But when you don't have sufficient experience, information or the time required to draft a perfect proposal, it can be nearly impossible to attract the attention for grant application reviewers.
If you're facing these challenge, you've an option of consulting a professional Grant Writing service for help. They will help you polish and solidify your research idea, research the necessary information, and draft an outstanding proposal that will compel grant reviewers to vote in your favor. Meanwhile, if you're not sure which NIH/SBIR grants are currently available, you can do quick NIH Grant searches here (4)