Two Wayne State University graduates have partnered to open Blue Turtle Bio Technologies Inc. in San Francisco after receiving $100,000 in seed funding, a year’s access to laboratory space, and in-kind support from Indie Bio — a startup accelerator that focuses on companies looking to build technologies in or around the field of biotech.
“Our first product is an engineered gut microbe capable of secreting the required enzyme Glucocerebrosidase and treating Gaucher’s disease, says Nilesh Joshi, who has joined Adham Aljahmi in the venture. “This would be an efficient alternative to costly IV’s,“Joshi says.
Intravenous infusions with an annual price tag of $300,000 are the only treatment option available for patients with Gaucher’s disease. The business partners are counting on the fact that an oral pill would be a welcome development.
“There are three types of Gaucher’s disease and the IV’s only treat type I. We believe our pill should be able to treat all the three types,” Joshi says.
Joshi, with a master’s degree in chemistry and Aljahmi, a former Blackstone LaunchPad startup consultant with a bachelor’s in political science — met through the university’s Blackstone LaunchPad program when they were working on their own individual startup ideas. The program is designed to encourage entrepreneurship as a potential career path.
Both Joshi and Aljahmi also receive the Adams Entrepreneurial Fellowship – an Automation Alley based program providing entrepreneurial mentorship and a $60,000 stipend.
Joshi says he owes much of his success to the mentoring he received from LaunchPad coach and angel investor Terry Cross, who continues to advise him on business strategy and navigating the difficult immigration requirements he must deal with as a citizen of India. The young entrepreneur is in the United States under a B1/B2 visa meant for business and tourism. “Terry was prescient about the immigration challenges that would eventually crop up,” Joshi says. “He made sure I had a plan and was prepared to move forward without significant problems.”
Joshi and Aljahmi are working with proof of concept studies in mice to validate their idea and are looking forward to raising capital for the next round of studies.