Advance Your Innovation Beyond the Idea Stage: A Case Example with Dr. Joonyul Kim

Advance Your Innovation Beyond the Idea Stage: A Case Example with Dr. Joonyul Kim

The Story

In January 2014, the Auburn University’s Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization (IAC), formerly the Office of Technology Transfer, contacted Alabama Launchpad to request a commercial assessment report on an invention disclosure from Dr. Joonyul Kim, an assistant research professor in the university’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, partners with the offices of tech transfer across the state to provide services designed to help researchers understand the market potential for their discoveries.  Auburn was enthusiastic about the potential of Dr. Kim’s work and wanted to validate internal findings with a third party assessment.

Alabama Launchpad provided an assessment from TreMonti Consulting through its Alabama Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Support Program.  The TreMonti report noted that Dr. Kim’s work with aptamer pairs had market potential and recommended further development efforts and continuation of prosecution of intellectual property protection.

Dr. Kim is using aptamers both to create and detect biomarkers for diseases.  His work began  postdoctoral in the lab of Dr. Chris Easley, an associate professor in Auburn’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Using funding from Dr. Easley’s laboratory startup package and a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the two made several advancements in protein detection. Among them was a methodology called CoELEX, which allows rapid selection of protein-binding aptamers useful for biomarkers detection or other protein targets. Now, Dr. Kim is looking to commercialize this process by forming a spinout company, Proximity Bioscences. Initial talks with customers confirmed Tremonti’s recommendation for further development of the CoELEX process via testing and validation on additional target proteins.  The recent $5,000 Phase 0 preliminary data award from Alabama Launchpad is helping Dr. Kim do just that.  He is using this grant to conduct additional field work with the IL-6 protein.

Dr. Kim, like many young researchers today, is very interested in the commercialization process.  As he delves into his research, he is simultaneously taking steps to understand the business elements of translating his research into a product.  He has already formed a startup, Proximity Biosciences, and at the urging of the Auburn University’s IAC, Dr. Kim is pursuing SBIR funding.  He attended an Alabama Launchpad SBIR workshop earlier this year and then applied to Alabama Launchpad for assistance writing a proposal for Phase I funding from  NSF.  He submitted his proposal in June and is waiting to hear back.

There is increasing competition for SBIR funding, and often applicants learn the process on a first proposal and are successful when they try again.  Dr. Kim would really like to win the NSF Phase I award, but he told me that if he is not successful on his first application, his work on the IL-6 protein will strengthen his data and be very useful when he reapplies.

Dr. Kim was the first applicant for the Alabama Launchpad preliminary data award.  His story provides a great example of ways inventors at the invention disclosure stage can work with Alabama Launchpad to prepare for a commercial launch.

Alabama Launchpad looks forward to following the work of Dr. Kim for many years.  We want him to be successful securing the NSF Phase I award, and eventually bring Proximity Biosciences through the Alabama Launchpad business competition.

The Inventor

Dr. Joonyul Kim, an Auburn University assistant research professor, was the first applicant for the Alabama Launchpad preliminary data award.

Dr. Joonyul Kim, an Auburn University assistant research professor, was the first applicant for the Alabama Launchpad preliminary data award.


Joonyul Kim graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in Biochemistry in 2008. From Michigan, he came to Auburn University, where he completed postdoctoral work on homogeneous protein assay development, DNA aptamer mining, and DNA circuits with protein input. Currently he is Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Bio-Chemistry, and Founder and CEO of Proximity Biosciences, a startup in Auburn, Alabama.


Link to Dr. Kim’s publications: http://www.pubfacts.com/author/Joonyul+Kim

The Science

(Abstracted from the TreMonti Commercial Assessment)

Dr. Kim is working in the field of aptamers.  Specifically, his team has developed methods for selecting single or multiple aptamers against target molecules in free solution.  The methods developed at Auburn University have applicability to a number of target molecules and can provide alternatives to antibodies, drugs, or other binding molecules for analytical, diagnostic, and therapeutic purposes.  The initial work was done using thrombin as a target.  The Alabama Launchpad SBIR preliminary data funding is being used to make another biomarker using the IL-6 protein.

Interested in learning more about the SBIR program and application process? Visit the Alabama Launchpad website  or contact Mary Hope Garmon at 205-943-4727 or email  mgarmon@edpa.org.