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Empire Genomics, a Buffalo life-sciences startup that develops tests to pinpoint whether a medical drug or treatment will help an individual patient, has received a $142,000 federal grant to produce a genomic companion diagnostic test for multiple myeloma, a blood-based cancer.

The Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant is the first of its kind that Empire Genomics has been awarded. The company plans to use the money to further develop its licensed technology that seeks to predict how multiple myeloma patients will respond to therapeutic treatments.

The grant was supposed to be for $150,000 but was lowered because of the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration, according to Anthony Johnson, Empire Genomics’ president and CEO.

Also, the company recently announced that it had licensed a novel genomic biomarker from Cornell University that holds promise for developing a diagnostic tool for a form of prostate cancer.

Empire Genomics scientists will use the patent-pending biomarker to develop a genetic test that may aid in identifying, and suggesting the best method of care for, patients with neuroendocrine prostate cancer, or NEPC.

The company said there is no effective therapy for this form of prostate cancer and most patients die within a year of diagnosis.

Empire Genomics expects to launch the test for NEPC later this year and will look to form a partnership with pharmaceutical companies to use this tool in clinical trials.

Empire Genomics, which grew out of research conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, is based on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The company had 12 employees last fall, when it announced plans to hire 50 more over the next five years.

- Stephen T. Watson