The University at Buffalo startup Cytocybernetics has received a $250,000 Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Per a report from science news outlet EurekAlert, the UB spinoff company will now be able to develop a medical device to study drugs used for mental health disorders. The Cybercyte, the startup’s flagship device, allows researchers to test new medicines and drugs on individual cells.

“This will enable neuroscientists to determine specific details of how drugs interact with neurons and affect their electrical behavior,” Cytocybernetics CEO Glenna Bett and UB professor said. “Whereas our work with heart cells is focused on drug safety screening, our work with neurons will target an earlier but equally important step in the drug development pipeline: studying how a drug works, and enabling scientists to more fully characterize early-stage candidate drugs with potential in neuroscience.”

Cybercyte has previously been working in the field of heart health by trying to identify what pharmaceuticals are best for those with heart problems. The new focus on neuroscience is a big shift, but the UB-backed researchers say they’re ready to take on the challenge.

“This award strengthens the notion of Western New York being an important region for early phase drug development,” Bett added. “Dr. Mark Nowak, who joined Cytocybernetics as our lead scientist in 2015, will be overseeing our research on neuronal applications for the Cybercyte. He graduated from UB in 1992 with his PhD, went to Caltech, then worked in drug discovery in California before coming back to Buffalo to be part of the burgeoning health tech innovation culture here.”

In the past, Cytocybernetics won a $500,000 award at the 43North pitch competition.

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