From lab to market: Meet Purist

Get to know the entrepreneurial researchers leading the charge in Tennessee’s science- and tech-based innovation. This week, meet Purist.

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Leila Safavi, Cofounder and CEO, Purist

Purist is developing a technology to enable a distributed network of small-scale and underutilized nuclear reactors to produce high-purity radioactive ingredients for nuclear medicine applications. What differentiates Purist is the capability to concentrate the radioisotope product, during the production process itself, to produce a high purity radioactive ingredient that can be used in medical applications.

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Radioisotopes are time-sensitive materials that are used for diagnosing and treating life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. For over a decade there have been problems with the supply and availability of medical radioisotopes due to reliance on aging and mainly foreign resources. The inspiration for Purist came after Leila Safavi realized her work as a graduate student could provide a solution to overcoming radioisotope supply shortages and increase our domestic radioisotope production capabilities.

One of the ways Purist has taken advantage of the LaunchTN network is by participating in the 2020 Internship Program. The company onboarded a business development intern who has now become an employee and a valuable member of their team.

“LaunchTN has become a valuable asset to Purist by continuously providing resources and communicating external opportunities that have benefited — and continue to benefit — Purist significantly,” said Leila, Cofounder and CEO.

Purist also received an award from LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund in 2019, after winning an SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health earlier that year. Through a competitive awards-based program, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program provides federal funding for small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

Q&A

What role did receiving SBIR/STTR federal funding play in your company’s commercialization?
Receiving the SBIR award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been and continues to be fundamental to Purist’s progress towards commercialization. The SBIR has provided the funding and resources that enable us to develop and de-risk our technology, while simultaneously affording us the opportunity to lay the foundation for a commercialization pathway.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give another company applying for SBIR/STTR funding?
Don’t give up if your first submission wasn’t successful — address the critique, incorporate the feedback, and try again.

How did receiving an award from LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund help move your company forward?
The gracious LaunchTN SBIR Matching Fund award provided Purist with the means to increase and expand on R&D, and business development activities, which will ultimately accelerate Purist towards its commercialization aspirations. Specifically, it has enabled the hiring of a business development analyst and provided the funding for customer discovery activities. Furthermore, it supplemented our NIH SBIR award by providing funding for expenses not covered by the SBIR, all of which are essential for the successful operation of a startup company.

Why is the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund important to the state of Tennessee?
The SBIR/STTR Matching Fund positively impacts the economic growth of Tennessee by advancing more high-tech companies towards commercialization, increasing jobs across the state, and laying the foundation for those companies to obtain capital to further expand and grow.

Startup Snapshot

Date founded: August 2017
Company based in: Knoxville, TN
Number of employees: 2
Capital raised: $530k
Connect with Leila: LinkedIn

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