SBIR Success Stories

A technology platform that helps to identify safer and more effective drug treatments


HemoShear Therapeutics
These specialized metal devices, developed through NIH SBIR funding, are designed to simulate the dynamics of human blood flow to improve the accuracy of drug testing in the lab. Photo courtesy of HemoShear Therapeutics.

The need for accurate, predictive tests of drug effectiveness and safety

Pharmaceutical researchers spend considerable time and money optimizing the effectiveness and safety of new drugs in the laboratory before they are tested in patients.  Technologies that enable such “preclinical” testing provide valuable insights into how a drug will act in the body and how it can be modified to improve its therapeutic potential and reduce its toxicity. However, the ability of preclinical testing to predict how a drug will affect patients depends on how accurately the test reproduces conditions in the body. Through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has supported HemoShear Therapeutics to develop a preclinical drug testing platform that uses human tissues to simulate the biology of the human cardiovascular system.

HemoShear develops a new drug-testing platform with NHLBI SBIR funding

HemoShear develops and commercializes research tools for scientists to study the effects of new drugs on normal and diseased human tissues in the laboratory. The company, founded in 2008 by Brian Wamhoff and Brett Blackman, was based on technology invented with NHLBI SBIR support while the founders were working at the University of Virginia.

HemoShear focused initially on developing models of the human cardiovascular system that could be used to discover new therapeutics for heart disease and to flag new drug candidates that might have harmful cardiac side effects before they are tried in patients. 

With SBIR funding from the NHLBI, the company refined its proprietary technology, dubbed REVEAL-Tx™, to accurately mimic the complex environment inside human blood vessels. Using REVEAL-Tx, scientists have been able to manipulate cells from patients under conditions that closely approximate those in the body to replicate conditions like the onset of atherosclerosis, which affects millions of Americans and can lead to heart attack and stroke.

In partnership with pharmaceutical companies, HemoShear has also employed REVEAL-Tx to assess the cardiovascular safety of potential drugs before they enter clinical testing. That includes discovery and testing of potential new drugs to treat non-cardiovascular diseases. For example, HemoShear’s work on modeling the liver has led to key partnerships for drug discovery related to pediatric metabolic rare diseases and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a type of fatty liver disease.

“The NHLBI SBIR grant has served as a foundation for our evolving business model and commercialization strategies and has provided us opportunity to engage in collaborations and partnerships.”

 – James Powers, Chairman and CEO, HemoShear Therapeutics


The SBIR-supported work of HemoShear has opened up new avenues for drug discovery and testing. Some recent advances from this research include:

  • Partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to identify and predict harmful cardiovascular side effects for new drugs in development
  • Elucidation of vascular safety concerns for certain classes of existing anti-cancer drugs
  • Demonstration of potential vascular health benefits of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis 

More about the NHLBI SBIR and STTR programs

The NHLBI Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs support research and development on the next generation of commercially promising technologies and products to prevent, diagnose, and treat heart, lung, blood, and sleep-related diseases and disorders. For more information on NHLBI’s small business programs, visit the NHLBI Small Business Program Funding Area page.


Reference to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, and/or company does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the NHLBI's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, or any other portion of the U.S. Government.