Where Ideas Grow

Kit to diagnose depression wins BIP PROOF competition

The MyRNA project, proposed by researchers from ICBAS and i3S, was one of the winners of the Business Ignition Program (BIP) PROOF competition, an initiative coordinated by U. Porto Inovação (which rewards innovative research projects). This funding of ten thousand euros will allow the team to proceed with a new clinical panel covering a greater number of patients, which is necessary to place on the market a kit of molecular biomarkers for the diagnosis and monitoring of depression.

Developed by researchers Maria Inês Almeida (ICBAS/i3S), Susana Santos (i3S), João Brás (i3S) and Mário Barbosa (ICBAS/i3S) (leader of the i3S group “Microenviroments for New Therapies” where the work will be developed). The MyRNA project involved psychiatrists, led by Prof. Dr. Rui Coelho, and several hospitals in the northern region, including Centro Hospitalar Universitário São João, Centro Hospitalar do Tâmega e Sousa, and Centro Hospitalar de Vila Nova de Gaia/Espinho.

This project was previously selected to participate in the COHiTEC Program, an initiative of COTEC Portugal – Business Association for Innovation, and won the first BfK IDEAS 2017 prize. These awards initially allowed the team to develop the technology, which was awarded first prize by the magazine Exame Informática in the Innovation Category of the “The Best of Technological Portugal”.

With this funding from BIP PROOF, emphasizes researcher Maria Inês Almeida, “we intend to increase the specificity and sensitivity of biomarkers for the diagnosis of depression. This will allow the optimization and demonstration of the activity and effectiveness of the technology”. This funding “is fundamental to bridge the transition between research and the development of a product for the market”.

Depression is one of the main public health problems and causes of disability worldwide. Depression is estimated to affect around 280 million people worldwide. MyRNA Diagnostics aims to develop a kit of molecular biomarkers for the diagnosis and monitoring of the disease.

BIP PROOF was created by U. Porto Inovação to support and encourage best practices in Research at the University of Porto. This initiative was developed with the objective of helping to develop proof-of-concepts, whether through creating technical feasibility prototypes, market or feasibility studies, in vitro/in vivo tests or other initiatives that may contribute to the maturation of the technology and approach to the market which then allows them to be transferred to companies or give rise to University spin-off companies.

This year, the contest was supported by the Amadeu Dias Foundation and Santander Universities, with ten thousand euros being awarded to each winner. The evaluation was coordinated by U. Porto Inovação, conducted by the consultant J. Pereira da Cruz, and involved members of Portugal Ventures and spin-off companies from the University of Porto. The 2021/2022 edition of BIP PROOF had 38 applications, of which the jury chose five winners: PROAQUA, PerovSiPort, MyRNA, PRO-FUSE, and NeuROP.