What Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is doing to help Alabama startups gain critical early stage federal funding

Just A Chat with Tracy Nevitt, president and founder of MetaboloStasis Therapeutics, on applying for Phase 0 assistance.



Tracy Nevitt, president and founder of MetaboloStasis Therapeutics, applied and received $5,000 for Phase 0 assistance through Alabama Launchpad.

Tracy Nevitt, president and founder of MetaboloStasis Therapeutics, applied and received $5,000 for Phase 0 assistance through Alabama Launchpad.

The federal government has $2.5 billion dollars in seed capital up for grabs to help early stage small businesses engage in research and development, create life-saving technologies and stimulate economic growth.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs, known as the America’s largest seed fund for small businesses in the STEM fields, encourages small businesses to engage in high-growth priorities and build a strong national economy. The money is awarded through its agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Department of Defense (DOD).

But gaining the funding is a highly competitive and tedious, time-consuming process.

In 2014, Alabama Launchpad created the Alabama SBIR/STTR Support Program to increase the success rate and competitiveness of SBIR/STTR applicants in the state for job creation.

To date, 11 companies have received $5,000 each either for financial assistance to fund preliminary data or for accounting compliance through Support Program’s Phase 0 Awards Assistance. The Phase 0 program is designed to give Phase I and Phase II proposals a greater rate of success by providing expert review and financial support.

MetaboloStasis Therapeutics, based in Huntsville, is one of the companies.  Alabama Launchpad chatted with Tracy Nevitt, president and founder, on applying for Phase 0 assistance.

If you had to describe your company to a sixth-grade student, how would you describe what it does?

MetaboloStasis Therapeutics is a medical research and development company dedicated to the scientific advancement and development of therapeutic solutions for human metabolic diseases. With type 2 diabetes reaching pandemic levels in the U.S., MetaboloStasis Therapeutics distinguishes itself within the BioPharma milieu through equal resource allocation to R&D in Rare Metabolic Diseases, hitherto a neglected patient cohort. Our mission is simple: every life is worth the battle in the war against human disease.

What has your past experience with SBIR contracts taught you?  

This is my first year in Biopharma, having launched MetaboloStasis in February of this year. As such, I have yet to experience many a SBIR! My previous experience as an academician was in the form of NIH grants and funding. I anticipate that while the language may differ, the overall objectives and interactions with SBIR contract agencies will not be too unfamiliar.

What prompted you to apply for the Alabama Launchpad award?

I was referred to Alabama Launchpad by the administrative staff at the HudsonAlpha Institute in conversation. Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to meet with Greg Sheek during one of his visits to the Institute. Having a project proposal that had been reviewed by a NIH panel a couple of years ago, Greg made me aware of the Phase 0: Preliminary Data awarded by Alabama Launchpad. Given the small changes required for submission of this proposal as an SBIR application to the NIH, I jumped on the opportunity and was delighted with the success. These experiments funded by your award will allow me to submit an application and, if successful, stands to significantly impact the understanding and treatment of neutropenia, a white blood cell disorder.

How has or will this award be used?

The funds awarded have been used to purchase a number of human immortalized cell lines derived from patients with diagnosed diseases of copper homeostasis. These reagents will provide solid proof-of-concept data regarding the experimental feasibility of the research outlined in the SBIR proposal which was lacking in my previous NIH submission.

Would you recommend others apply for the award?

 Oh absolutely. Funding is the limiting rate for scientific discovery and drug development. And every little can go a very long way. Your Phase 0 award of $5,000 I aim to translate into a $250,000 NIH award, and that subsequently becomes the platform for productive outcomes leading to future awards and funding. The application process is easy and the staff at Launchpad outstanding – what are you waiting for?

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.