A company that is developing a blood test to detect and monitor cancer won the 2015 Jefferson Economic Development Commission Challenge and close to $80,000 in cash and business services that go with the top prize.

InnoGenomics Technologies’ services include genetic testing that allows forensic scientists to unravel even the most challenging DNA evidence. The company is led by President and Chief Executive Officer Sudhir Sinha, who previously established ReliaGene Technologies, a DNA testing lab in Jefferson Parish. ReliaGene began in the JEDCO incubator in 1991. Orchid Cellmark bought the lab in 2007.

InnoGenomics Vice President Jonathan Tabak made the winning pitch in the contest, which attracted 33 competitors.

The blood test is still in the research-and-development phase, Tabak said. InnoGenomics is somewhere between two and four years from completing the clinical trials required for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, and global acceptance of the test.

The company also plans to offer the service as a Laboratory Developed Test, under a less burdensome set of regulations that will allow InnoGenomics to offer the test through partners like Ochsner and regional hospitals, Tabak said.

“The main reason we were so excited to win the pitch competition yesterday was that we can use those funds to pay the administrative costs … involved with obtaining cancer patient blood samples to further our research and development,” Tabak said.

InnoGenomics’ management has more than 85 years of combined experience in commercializing biotechnology. The company’s scientists have expertise in molecular biology, forensic genetics and molecular diagnostics. The company’s DNA testing already is generating some revenue, and InnoGenomics’ plans call for expanding its customer base for the testing while pushing forward with the cancer detection and monitoring technology.

The pitch competition is held during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week and highlights entrepreneurs with ties to Jefferson Parish.

Five startups were chosen out of 33 applicants to compete in the event at Southport Hall. Lowry Curley, of AxoSim Technologies; Kristen Preau Moore, of Cook Me Somethin’ Mister; Crutcher Reiss, of myMix Nutrition; and Neil Pierson, of Sock Spot, were the others who made pitches.

Judges scored the pitches on presentation, innovation, answering questions effectively, impact on the parish and scalability. The entrepreneurs also received points based on a crowd vote and business plans.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the high level of innovation and excellence showcased through the JEDCO Challenge this year. All of the startups that participated in this event represent the future of business in Jefferson Parish. We look forward to watching them grow and thrive in our community,” JEDCO Executive Director Jerry Bologna said.

The prize package included:

  • $22,500 in cash thanks to First NBC Bank, Postlethwaite & Netterville, 365 Connect, MMI Culinary Services, Atmos Energy, Daul Insurance and Simmons & White.
  • One year of free office space in the JEDCO Business Innovation Center.
  • Legal, insurance and accounting services; public relations help; membership in the Jefferson Chamber; and sales training.