Biotechnology / Funding / Health tech

West Baltimore’s Previse scored a $1.8M NIH grant

The company launched its diagnostic molecular test for esophageal cancer in March and plans to use the grant for independent clinical validation and studies.

Previse cofounder Daniel Lunz. (Courtesy Previse)

This editorial article is a part of Biotech Month of’s editorial calendar.

A developer of diagnostic tests that grew out of its two founders crossing paths at Johns Hopkins University has earned nearly $2 million in grants to make its products more viable.

Previse, a developer of diagnostic tests located within Sinai Hospital in West Baltimore, was recently awarded a $1.8 million Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program gives small businesses with fewer than 500 people the chance to nab up to $1 million in federal funding to commercialize their products.

Founded in 2018 by Daniel Lunz and Stephen Meltzer, Previse is emerging as a name in medical diagnostic technology. Lunz told that the two cofounders met through their shared participation in Johns Hopkins’ research infrastructure.

“We were both working at Johns Hopkins in research,” Lunz said. “Dr. Meltzer is a professor of medicine and oncology, a gastroenterologist and biomarker researcher, and I was working with what’s called the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network. I was also pursuing my MBA at the time … I met Dr. Meltzer in a faculty meeting, and he shared about this technology he had founded that he believed could save lives.”

The recent SBIR funding will facilitate both an independent clinical validation process and a clinical utility study, which could provide insight into how doctors make use of Previse’s esophageal diagnostics-focused Esopredict product for patients. For the grant, Previse collaborated closely with cofounder and chief medical officer Meltzer, as well as his laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Together, they submitted comprehensive research and commercialization plans to the NIH that outline the path Previse is taking to expedite the adoption of its Esopredict test, which launched in March 2023.

“This substantial grant awarded by the NIH underscores the potential impact of Previse’s Esopredict assay and methylation technology,” Lunz said in a press release. “Barrett’s esophagus is a precursor of esophageal cancer, and Esopredict can make a significant contribution to providing personalized risk-stratification, identifying patients who are likely to progress to cancer while curative treatment options are still available, thus saving lives.”

Lunz, the company’s CEO, noted in the interview that the SBIR and NIH also supported earlier work in Africa before this latest grant came.

“We began working with Dr. Meltzer when this company was conceived in late 2018. … Some of those collaborations were SBIR-funded, NIH-funded collaborations … collaborating with Hopkins and [University of California, San Francisco] in Tanzania to conduct early detection research, and it’s been a wonderful continuation of that collaboration,” Lunz said.

Lunz added that the Esopredict test aims to help doctors better diagnose cancer before more complicated treatments become a reality.

“The problem is there’s no way of predicting which patients are likely to progress, resulting in two problems,” Lunz  First, some people are overtreated, receiving unnecessary surveillance that may never progress to cancer, incurring not only the costs but also the anxiety associated with that invasiveness. Our test can help inform physicians about which patients are likely to develop this cancer, enabling them to perform endoscopic treatment—a procedure that often cures the disease and prevents cancer.”

Previse notably secured $3 million in a seed round back in March. The West Baltimore-based company currently has 10 employees. The funding is being allocated toward team expansion, conducting additional research for Esopredcit and approval for its laboratory.

Companies: Johns Hopkins University / Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Series: Biotech Month 2023

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