Less than two years after completion, Matt O’Reilly’s Farmers Park development is now home to another family member’s business – brother Austin O’Reilly’s biomedical and genetic testing firm, Dynamic DNA Laboratories LLC.
O’Reilly opened the southeast Springfield lab June 25, after roughly two years of neuropathology research at Missouri State University’s Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences in the Jordan Valley Innovation Center and two years doing crime-scene DNA analysis in Florida.
“I’m the only one in my immediate family who didn’t study business,” O’Reilly said, noting he switched majors from business to biology and criminal justice at Texas Christian University. “I’m really the only scientist in the family, but I have a business mind from my genetics, from my dad and my grandpa with O’Reilly Auto Parts. I feel like it’s been infused in me to have a business mentality, but I’m a science nerd, too.”
Dynamic DNA, which employs an office administrator and three scientists including the 30-year-old O’Reilly, researches the effects of commercial products on the human body. In addition to biomedical research, the company performs four types of genetic tests, including paternity, ancestry, genetic predisposition for diseases and disorders, and unknown sample identification, aka infidelity testing. O’Reilly said the process is similar to forensics, although the company is not a forensics lab.
One client, Springfield-based Make People Better LLC, is using the lab to analyze if its Re:iimmune rehydration solution and intestinal immunity supplement can reduce inflammation.
“To make any claim (that) it’s helping people, right now, I have no evidence to say why,” said Make People Better owner Kerri Miller. “It’s important to validate it from an empirical perspective.”
With research expected to conclude by fall, Miller said Dynamic DNA would then assist in writing a report to be submitted for publication in scientific journals. Previously, Miller said she worked with a laboratory in Guadalajara, Mexico, but contacted O’Reilly when she heard he was starting a local lab.
“I shopped this to two other labs, and he was very competitive in price,” Miller said, declining to disclose costs. “We’re able to meet with them frequently, talk about the study and work through it on a more personal level.”
Noting startup costs were roughly $750,000, O’Reilly said he’ll pursue grant funding in the fall through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. Typical grant awards are up to $150,000 for six months of support, according to SBIR.gov, and O’Reilly said the program dispensed around $2.5 billion in grant funding during its last cycle.
“There aren’t many private research labs out there, and the No. 1 reason behind that is because of overhead and funding,” he said, adding the company operates independently from academic institutions or national organizations. “I think anything that goes into a lab like this is worth it in the long run.”
The art of science
The company also takes DNA out of the lab and puts it on the canvas.
Starting at $300, Dynamic DNA sells kits for customers to swab cells from inside their cheeks to turn into the lab for research. Similar to ancestry testing, scientists extract the DNA, purify and amplify it, before conducting a process called gel electrophoresis. The resulting pattern of fragments, which the lab colors to client specifications, is unique to every individual.
“We include five genes on the portrait that relate to certain characteristics,” O’Reilly said of the genes for energy, hair color, intelligence and memory. “We have another one that relates to oxytocin, which is like your love and compassion gene.”
The most powerful tool in the Dynamic DNA laboratory is a scanning electron microscope, called Zeiss EVO LS, capable of producing high-resolution images of an object at up to 1 million times magnification.
In addition to research applications, the company uses the device to magnify an image and colors it before it is printed on canvas. The idea, he said, stems from his days using the graduate studies equipment at TCU.
“I kept thinking to myself this is such a unique artistic piece for people to see the scientific world without having the tools see it for themselves,” O’Reilly said.
Caffe Bene franchisee Alice Oh, a fellow Farmers Park tenant, commissioned O’Reilly for images of the coffee shop’s espresso beans, ground coffee and tea leaves.
“We could probably put up a poster that had all the guidelines or definitions of what a coffee plant is, but I wanted to do something unique that no other coffee shop has,” Oh said, noting she and O’Reilly have not yet discussed prices for the art project.
Inside the lab, 2144 E. Republic Road, Ste. B-204, O’Reilly said the ultimate goal, like many biomedical research facilities, is to find the cure for cancer.
“Anybody could do it, because you could come across a drug or a compound any day that stops cell growth and proliferation,” he said. “That would be a good potential therapy and it’s definitely a possibility.”[[In-content Ad]]