Buffalo startup advances the science of diagnosing autoimmune disease

Aesku.NY is a spinoff of Germany-based AESKU.DIAGNOSTICS. The Buffalo startup has 15 employees at its headquarters in the University at Buffalo’s Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), with plans to hire more this year.

The firm’s focus is on developing tests that are compatible with AESKU.DIAGNOSTICS’ HELIOS system, which automates microscope analysis of blood samples, enabling automated processing and microscopic analysis of samples without the need for highly trained technologists.

A scientist at Aesku.NY pipettes a solution containing cells onto a slide. Later, the liquid portion of the solution will be removed, leaving a thin layer of cells on each well of the slide. Such slides are used in diagnostic tests for autoimmune diseases. Image credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

Aesku.NY’s first product — approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through the German partner company, which purchases Aesku.NY’s products and handles filing for regulatory approval — is a cost-effective screening for connective tissue disorders such as lupus. (Patients who test positive would need further testing to obtain a diagnosis for a specific disease.)

A partnership with UB’s Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG) is aiding Aesku.NY’s growth, with BIG providing funding for equipment used in cell culture and frozen tissue processing, both of which are critical to the company’s ability to develop and manufacture screening tests.

“The BIG initiative is of paramount importance to our company’s ability to meet the market demand for our products and in the development of new test methods, and hence in the success of our operations in Western New York,” Kumar says.

In addition to the development and manufacturing of test methods for the detection of autoantibodies for connective tissue and other autoimmune disorders, the company is also working on the development and subsequent manufacturing of tests for the detection of autoantibodies associated with celiac, various endocrine and other autoimmune disorders. BIG will support these efforts as well, including by connecting the startup with UB experts who can help validate the clinical efficacy of these tests.

BIG is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development effort to advance the Buffalo Niagara region as a center for bioinformatics and life sciences research. Companies partnering with BIG gain access to biomedical, genomic and big data expertise to help advance new molecular diagnostic tests, companion diagnostics, therapeutic agents and precision medicine techniques to tailor treatment options and improve health outcomes.