The Thiel Foundation has awarded its first six Breakout Labs grants, the company’s revolutionary revolving fund to promote innovation in science and technology.
Launched in November 2011, Breakout Labs provides teams of researchers in very early-stage companies with the means to pursue their most radical goals in science and technology. Breakout Labs has awarded six grants, of up to $350,000 each, to the following recipients:
3Scan plans to develop 3-D digital reconstruction of brain tissue, using a novel, faster, less expensive microscope technology. Building a map of connections in the brain—the connectome—is a critical step to understanding what makes the human brain unique.
Arigos Biomedical wants to develop methods of cooling organs for long-term storage. When combined with emerging advances in cryopreservation, tissue engineering and stem cell therapies to eliminate graft rejection, this technology would make banked organs immediately available to anyone needing a transplant.
Immusoft plans to re-program human immune cells to produce therapeutics in the body. This technology could dramatically improve the ability to treat a range of diseases, as well as enhance human health and longevity.
Inspirotec wants to develop a universal system for collecting and identifying virtually any airborne agent. Our environment is increasingly subject to natural and man-made toxins, and this technology would allow for their capture and identification in a simple, low-cost handheld device.
Longevity Biotech plans to develop an entirely new class of therapeutics via artificial protein technology (hybridtides). Hybridtides are targeted biologic-like molecules which are highly-resistant to breakdown by natural digestive enzymes and tunable to very stable molecular structures. These features have demonstrated potent therapeutic activity with the possibility of oral biologic delivery.
Positron Dynamics wants to enhance the production and collection of positrons, a class of elementary particles. Positrons have many near-term applications, for example, in medical imaging; in the long run, they may be a source of energy—antimatter propulsion—for space travel.
"In the past, people dreamed of the future as a radically better, more technologically advanced place: you might live for centuries, delegate work to your robots, and take your vacations on the moon," said Peter Thiel, who established and funds the Thiel Foundation. "Now, many people expect their children to inherit a world worse than today's. With Breakout Labs, we want to rekindle dreams of an amazing future. That's why we're supporting researchers who dream big and want to build a tomorrow in which we all want to live."
Most of the Breakout Labs grantees have only recently formed companies, conducting research in silico, in technology incubators, with academic collaborators and through CROs.
Breakout Labs accepts applications on a rolling basis. Although the program is open to proposals in any field of advanced science and technology, the current emphasis is on the intersection of biology and technology. Going forward, individual grants will be awarded as proposals emerge from the Breakout Labs' review process.
"We are thrilled with the quality of the applications we have received," said Breakout Labs' executive director, Lindy Fishburne. "The initial response to our program has signaled to us that we are addressing a critical gap in the support of early-stage science and technology taking place outside the traditional boundaries of universities and institutions. We look forward to receiving and funding more great proposals throughout the year."