First Genomics Startup Company Centered Around UNLV Biotechnologies Formed

Marty Schiller, executive director of UNLV's Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine
Marty Schiller, executive director of UNLV's Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine. (UNLV Photo Services / R. Marsh Starks)
Nov. 18, 2016

Exciting personalized medicine advancements based on UNLV research are on the horizon, thanks to Heligenics LLC, the first genomics spinoff company to emerge from UNLV.

Heligenics was formed to commercialize several biotechnologies created in the laboratory of Martin Schiller, executive director of UNLV’s Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine, including:

  • The GigaAssay™ a high-volume gene-screening system used to screen for interactions between genes and drugs
  • High-confidence personalized nutrigenetic reports
  • HIV Toolbox, an integrated database and web application for HIV drug-­target discovery

“Heligenics is the first of hopefully many commercial applications of our genomics technology,” Schiller said. “We thank UNLV and the state of Nevada for their support and for allowing this launch as part of our goal to return economic benefit to the community from our research.”

Heligenics anticipates that the first two projects to come to market will be the GigaAssay™ system and the nutrigenetic reports, which may be app-based.

The GigaAssay™ system allows genomics researchers and drug companies to measure millions of cells individually at once, thereby enabling an entire portfolio of products or diagnostics to emerge from a single experiment. For instance, variation in a cancer gene mutant can be measured to track disease progression, resulting in new treatment protocols or the development of new drugs that can attack the mutation. The GigaAssay™ system can also be used to improve or discover new therapeutic antibodies, proteins that normally bind to and help the body fight pathogens or aberrant cells. GigaAssay™ results would allow such an antibody to be repurposed to bind to any protein variation and leveraged more effectively in the treatment of cancer and immunological disorders.

The nutrigenetic reports will provide patients with the information they need to understand the way their genes and diet affect one another. These reports can help patients create personalized diets, based on their unique genetics, that could reduce their risk for disease and improve their health. The nutrigenetic reports will be generated from saliva samples gathered via a direct-to-consumer mail service.

Additional technologies are also in commercial planning, including SciReader™, a web application that automatically and instantaneously displays definitions for scientific documents.