UMaine biotech spinoff company wins Top Gun prize, media report

The Bangor Daily News, Mainebiz and Maine Startups Insider reported Neuright Inc., a biotech spinoff from the University of Maine, and Sticky Sweet, Portland’s first company featuring plant-based ice cream, each won a $25,000 prize as winners of the Top Gun entrepreneur contest. Neuright is developing a combined diagnostic test and therapy for early detection and treatment of peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which nerves die away from the skin, the BDN reported. The company was co-founded by Magdalena Blaszkiewicz, who graduated from UMaine in May with a doctoral degree in biomedical sciences, and Kristy Townsend, an assistant professor of neurobiology, to create and commercialize a medical device to more sensitively diagnose neuropathy in its earlier stages. The company partnered with UMaine faculty, including lead bioengineer Rosemary Smith, neuroscientist Len Kass, and electrical/computer engineers Nuri Emanetoglu and Ali Abedi, Mainebiz reported. Of the 100 million people in the United States who have diabetes or are in the process of getting the disease, more than 60 percent develop peripheral neuropathy, Blaszkiewicz told the BDN. “There’s no cure, but with early diagnosis it’s possible to treat the disease,” she said. The company has designed a micro-needle array that can measure nerve conduction, the ability of the nerve to send signals to muscles. The device also can stimulate the regrowth of nerves that are retreating below the skin surface, the article states. Blaszkiewicz said the company’s product, which will be manufactured by existing medical device companies under partnerships, will cost far less than current nerve activity detectors. More about Blaszkiewicz and Townsend’s related research is online. Top Gun is the annual program for competitively selected entrepreneurs sponsored by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs and its partners, including UMaine.