East Baltimore biotech startup among companies showcased at White House Demo Day

Three Johns Hopkins researchers among co-founders of CDI Labs

After 10 years as a successful veterinarian, Ignacio "Nacho" Pino decided to dedicate himself to work that could bring state-of-the-art biotechnology research to his home of Puerto Rico.

CDI Laboratories—a company he founded in 2008 along with Johns Hopkins University researchers Heng Zhu and Seth Blackshaw, JHU professor emeritus Jef Boeke, and two others (Dan Eichinger and Joe Bonaventura)—aims to produce research-grade protein and antibody products that support scientific research on cancer, autoimmunity, and infectious diseases. The company is one of more than 30 startups being showcased in Washington, D.C., today as part of the first-ever White House Demo Day, which will highlight the work of a diverse group of entrepreneurs from across the country.

President Obama will personally meet some of these entrepreneurs and view their exhibits, which will range from early-stage technologies to growth-stage consumer products. He will also deliver remarks to the entrepreneurs, along with invited private-sector leaders, on the importance of inclusive entrepreneurship to our nation's economy.

CDI Labs—which is based in East Baltimore's Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins and in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico—got its start with a meeting in Puerto Rico between Puerto Rican entrepreneurs and Boeke, who spent nearly 30 years as a professor at JHU's School of Medicine and founded JHU's High Throughput Biology Center, or HiT Center, part of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. Zhu, a professor of oncology and pharmacology, and Blackshaw, an associate professor of neuroscience, neurology, and ophthalmology, both do research work in the HiT Center.

The company specializes in proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins, their structures, and their functions. CDI's HuProt protein microarrays and related services make it possible to perform rapid and efficient analyses of thousands of protein interactions using minimal amounts of valuable research or clinical samples. CDI's system of antibody production is part of the NIH Protein Capture Reagents program and is currently working to produce truly mono-specific antibodies to human transcription factors.

Recently, CDI Labs was selected as part of a research consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health to perform research on cancer, autoimmunity, and infectious diseases.

"We are honored and excited to participate in this event," Pino, president of CDI Labs, said of White House Demo Day. "CDI offers over 75% of the human proteome to academic and industrial scientists as a unique, convenient, and rapid assay platform. It's proving to be a powerful tool in understanding disease processes and can speed the development of potential therapeutics. It is also becoming a game-changer for assessing the quality of research antibodies, currently a $1.5 billion market in the life sciences sector."

White House Demo Day is part of President Obama's Startup America initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation. Additional information about the companies and entrepreneurs recognized at the White House today can be found at whitehouse.gov.