Brad Amendt, UI professor of anatomy and cell biology, is about to go commercial with his new class of microRNA inhibitors to be used in tissue reprogramming, tissue engineering, and bone formation. His team has developed a new plasmid based series of microRNA reagents.

MicroRNA are molecules that exist in all cells of the body to regulate gene expression and modulate many biological processes. Aberrant expression of microRNAs leads to defective cellular processes, such as the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health problems.

The plasmid-based inhibitor system developed by Amendt, and his team, binds to the microRNA inhibiting their function and facilitates developmental processes, inhibits disease-causing microRNA over-expression, and modulates immune responses.

While other microRNA inhibitors exist on the market, many of them are chemically modified and toxic, whereas Amendt’s are not.

“We have something very special that no one else has,” he said.

The product has been patented and is now in the development and marketing stage. It will be licensed through Amendt’s company NaturemiRI,

created last fall.

Amendt was also awarded FY2015 GAP funding to aid in the commercialization of the inhibitors, which will allow him to hire someone to run the company. He hopes to begin marketing this spring.

Amendt said he has been very impressed with the GAP fund and the university’s support for researchers to translate their work into real-world applications.

“GAP funding makes you think about how to market your discoveries, and we should all be thinking about that,” Amendt said. “Once the PIs [principal investigators] start to think that way, a lot of what we do in basic research can be applied. It just takes some effort to make that jump and push the product.”

The University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF) is a 501C3 corporation that commercializes UI-developed technologies and inventions through licensing and new venture formation, and manages the subsequent revenue stream. The UIRF’s primary functions include identifying and developing new ventures, finding partners for commercializing and intellectual property services. More at

The UIVentures program assists university inventors in creating new ventures based on their research. UIVentures provides education and mentoring to advance entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies by linking them with the capital, talent and other critical resources they need for success. More at

To view all FY15 GAP awardees, visit

​By Anne Easker