The New Gastroenterologist

‘Can’t believe we won! (The AGA Shark Tank)’: Building sustainable careers in clinical and translational GI research


Tell us about your recent experience at the AGA Tech Summit.

We attended our first AGA Tech Summit in Boston on March 21-23, flying between New England Nor’easter snowstorms this year. We had been selected as one of the five Shark Tank competition finalists after submitting our application and a video of our technology. We pitched a rapid paper diagnostic that we are developing to detect a multiplex of gastrointestinal pathogens. These pathogens cause infectious diarrhea and are detected from stool in 15 minutes without any instruments or electric power at the point of care (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Method of detecting nucleic acids using 3-D paper microfluidic devices. Sample is loaded on the one dot on the left. It is dispersed into nine different locations for the multiplexed detection of nine pathogens. Courtesy GoDx Inc.

Figure 1. Method of Detecting Nucleic Acids Using Three-dimensional Paper Microfluidic Devices. Sample is loaded on the one dot on the left. It is dispersed into 7 different locations for the multiplexed detection of 7 pathogens, and one location for the control.

The goal is for the test to aid in diagnosis and treatment for patients in real time instead of sending stool samples to the laboratory, which could take days for the return of results. Our idea was the first to be pitched (by Dr. Kim) and it was nerve-racking to be the first presenter and watch others pitch after us. So, we were delightfully surprised that both the “sharks” and the audience picked our technology as the winner!

What led you to go into the innovation industry?

Dr. Wendy A. Henderson, investigator & chief, digestive disorder unit, biobehavioral branch, National Institute of Nursing Research

Dr. Wendy A. Henderson

My collaborator, Dr. Henderson, had a dream to create diagnostic products that can be used in real time to diagnose and treat patients with diarrhea during the clinician-patient encounter. The product would be low cost and be run without an electrical power source, making it useful for resource-limited settings. The product would be especially helpful in rural, outbreak, and global settings where mortality from diarrhea is the highest. Approximately 525,000 children a year die of diarrheal diseases, and the elderly and immunocompromised also are significantly affected.

To realize our dream, we invented this technology through a public-private partnership called a Clinical Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health, and GoDx Inc. GoDx, Inc. is a start-up company that Dr. Kim incorporated to develop and commercialize global health technologies into products. Through this partnership, we co-invented the technology, which we patented as a joint invention. We have also obtained IRB approval of a clinical protocol to test our “Stool Tool” on patient samples. Dr. Henderson is the principal investigator of this NIH clinical protocol. Last year, GoDx, Inc. was awarded a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grant by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), NIH. They were recently awarded a $1.93 million Phase 2 SBIR grant from the NCATS to further develop the product; we will serve as co-PIs.

What do you enjoy most about the innovation industry?

What we enjoy the most about developing innovative products is the potential to help millions of people. It’s exhilarating to think that the discoveries we make in the lab can turn into innovative and useful new products that help save lives and improve health.

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