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Spotlight on Women in STEM

By March 31, 2021 No Comments

In the heart of Temple lies a best-kept-secret: one you may drive by every day and not even realize is there. Located in an unassuming building at 1802 South First  Street, directly across from Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, sits Temple Health and Bioscience District (THBD), a 5,000 square foot lab and office facility that serves as home for some of the greatest health and biotech innovators in the region.

Among the tenant companies that utilize THBD’s state-of-the-art equipment and harness diverse professional resources are two female-owned companies making waves in the health tech ecosystem: ama biotech and Sunthetics.

Mia Mihailovic, Founder and CEO of ama biotech, first envisioned her startup while earning her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Inspired by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that declared a sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic in the United States, Mihailovic set out to offer expanded options for STD testing. She decided to target women, because STDs are particularly common in women ages 15-24 and are often asymptomatic, leading to long-term health issues such as infertility and cancer.

Mihailovic utilized her training in designing molecular tools to create a straight-from-the-source biosample test that would create affordable access to at-home STD testing. Thus, ama biotech was born! The result, currently being developed at THBD, is a diagnostic tampon that will collect menstrual fluid that can then be analyzed, without doctor’s visits, third-party labs, or waiting for results. For women at-large, this means affordable, anonymous, easy-access STD testing at home is on the horizon.

“Given ama biotech’s mission to empower vulnerable populations we are honored to be a part of THBD,” says Mihailovic. “We are thankful for this space for tech innovation and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

Another female leader taking center stage at THBD is Daniela Blanco, Co-Founder and CTO of Sunthetics. Blanco earned her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at NYU in 2020 and dedicates her research to developing socially-responsible solutions for renewable energy integration in chemical reactions. Sunthetics’ mission is to make the chemical industry, responsible for products we use daily from food to textiles and electronics, more sustainable. Sunthetics helps bring new ideas to life for technology that has lower energy consumption, better resource usage, safer or bio-based starting materials, and integrate with renewable energy sources.

Blanco leads the technical development of the hardware and software aspects of the Sunthetics solution. Sunthetics’ artificial intelligence (AI) software platform has the ability to generate insights equivalent to thousands of experiments using only a few data points. The highly efficient tools accelerate and enhance process optimization.

“At Sunthetics, we have leveraged the laboratory suites and equipment at THBD for our research in chemical process optimization,” says Blanco. “The support we have received from staff and other tenants is invaluable. THBD is constantly connecting us with opportunities to support our scientific growth and explore funding initiatives. We are forever grateful.”

Blanco’s vision for the future is featured in Own the Room, a NatGeo documentary now streaming on Disney+. It follows five students from different corners of the world as they launch startup companies to build a better future. The documentary highlights Blanco and the birth of Sunthetics.

Sunthetics and ama biotech represent just two of the tenants developing groundbreaking technologies at THBD. Visit templebioscience.org to learn more about the life science facility, tenant companies, and the growing impact on the Temple community.

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