Editor’s note: Startup Spotlight focuses on North Carolina entrepreneurial companies on a mission to improve lives and the economy. These are often part of our Startup Monday package.
WILMINGTON – The founders are dedicated to improving the lives of people with opioid use disorder (OUD). Now they have more money for that mission.
opiAID, a Wilmington based startup, has received a $2.8 million dollar Fast Track Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR) from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The company will receive an initial payment of $320,000 to execute a comprehensive study on the biometrics of people in treatment for OUD. The balance of the $2.8M will be used to conduct a two-arm multisite FDA clinical trial to take place in NC, WV, and AZ, according to David Reeser, CEO and founder of opiAID.
“We are honored to receive this significant non-dilutive funding from NIDA, which will allow us to conduct cutting-edge research on a critical issue affecting millions of people,” Reeser said. “The results of this study will help inform the development of more effective treatments for OUD and improve the lives of those affected by this devastating disease.”
opiAID views addiction is a physiologic response, not a moral failing. “The heart of opiAID is a love for our Neighbors. We leverage technology in meaningful way to help bring more of our Neighbors home at night,” Reeser said.
The goal of the initial study is to better understand the biometric changes that occur in individuals with OUD who are undergoing treatment. The findings will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of different treatment approaches and help to improve the quality of care for people with OUD. The company is partnering with the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the Coastal Horizons clinic for this part of the study, aiming to make an important impact on the problem locally.
This is the startup’s second federal grant. In 2020, opiAID received a $276,000 grant from NIH. This was matched with $75,000 from the Office of Science, Tech and Innovation fund from the NC Commerce office of Dr. John Hardin.
“The opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health crisis,” said Tyler Sugden, the COO of opiAID. “opiAID is committed to finding new and innovative ways to address this crisis.”
More than 107,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2022, nearly 200 per day, and the problem is getting worse as fentanyl becomes more prevalent, Dr. David MacQueen, Research Officer at opiAID noted.
Currently, opiAid works with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) rehab centers to provide state-of-art, cloud-based, customized data solutions. The data collected by the centers’ Electronic Heath Record (EHR) systems is transformed using machine learning into specific, evidence-based recommendations on care, a process which also reduces administrative costs and increases claim opportunities.
“…opiAID’s services have the potential to be a game-changer for providing specific client interventions. opiAID’s timely and actionable insights support improved clinical decision making allowing for just-in-time interventions to prevent relapse and potentially save lives,” Rachel Crouse, Clinical Director at Coastal Horizons, said.
Jim R. Roberts, founder of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) and the WALE Angel Network, said that the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem of the state joined together in support of opiAID. “I think it is very important that we have needed to partner with the whole NC non-profit startup ecosystem to help opiAID get to this point,” Roberts said. “Wilmington has not had many Life Science based innovation startups that are this sophisticated so we have had to lean on First Flight Venture Center, NC RIOT, CED, UNCW CIE, 1 Million Cups RTP, the NC Science, Tech and Innovation Board at NC Commerce, the Wilmington Small Business Coalition, and others to help NEW and WALE Angel Network find the resources to push this company forward. opiAID also won an NC IDEA $50,000 SEED grant and participated in the NC Biotech Center BIONEER program.”
One of the first people Roberts called on was Emil Runge, Director of Programs at First Flight Venture Center, a science-focused business incubator and innovation hub located in the Research Triangle Park, NC. “Jim brought the opiAID folks up to RTP,” Runge said. “We saw right away they were a beautiful team tackling something really important.”
opiAID participated in First Flight’s LiftOff program for high potential early-stage science-based companies, which provides them with a non-dilutive funding strategic plan. Its grant writing program helped opiAID score its first SBIR grant as well as matching funds from Dr. John Hardin’s fund at NC Commerce.
opiAID currently has a team of 15, but will be hiring at the beginning of Q4, Reeser said. “We are raising a seed round now to add team members and continue to commercialize our initial offering.”
For more information about opiAID and its initiatives, visit the organization’s website at www.opiaid.tech