OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | TeamWise: FirstGen Solutions
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TeamWise: FirstGen Solutions

A primary concern for expecting mothers is the safety of their unborn child. When taking prescription and OTC drugs, it is imperative to ensure that they will not cause an adverse reaction, potentially endangering the health of the baby. FirstGen Solutions scans for fetal drug interaction in the first stages of life using human embryonic stem cells to model human brain formation. Their platform informs pharma companies on the toxicity interaction of drugs. If drugs pass the test, consumers receive notice that it’s safe to take while pregnant.

George Britton, inventor of the technology, has been working on this for the past five years. George and co-founder, Kareem Mehrabiani, met when they were placed in the same cohort at Rice University’s Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (SSPB) Ph.D. program. A few years later, Drecey Albin joined the picture when he sat next to them at Rice University’s IdeaLaunch, where they would go on to meet Kerri and Jessica, part of the OwlSpark Leadership Team.

“Both he and Kareem were really close when I first met them. We started hanging out and meeting up for coffee at like 9:00 p.m., working together, and now here we are,” Dreycey recounts.

Through OwlSpark, they hope to constrain themself to more business-oriented problems such as market segmentation, customer discovery, and sharpening their value proposition.

“We all come from a science perspective, and it’s helping us to consider things from a business perspective,” Kareem said. The most substantial challenge they’ve had to face with FirstGen is getting in touch with customers.

“It seems like for every 25 emails we send out, we’ll get two conversations. But what’s nice is that from those conversations, we’ll get another two leads, and it just expands,” Dreycey explains. FirstGen Solutions’ goal is to significantly reduce or eliminate the use of animal testing and outdated animal models, which do not always provide accurate results. Additionally, they hope to move towards using induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) in place of embryonic stem cells, which are “ethically less dubious.”

In his free time, George enjoys cycling and mountain biking, as well as Italian-style cooking. Drecey enjoys running and hiking.

“We had a call the other day where they caught me mid-run, and I had to sprint home. I’m trying to get them to join me on a hike someday in Colorado,” he said. Kareem, on the other hand, enjoys reading physics and philosophy textbooks and playing the guitar.

“I’ve been playing since I can remember—there are actually pictures of me playing from when I was just three.” He also used to practice magic (how neat!).