The team behind aBioBot believes robots will be key to emphasizing the work of humans in laboratories.

By automating repetitive tasks, the aBioBot technology, based out of Ohio State University, allows people to engage in more meaningful and creative work.

“Biological research is mainly driven by humans—where humans are in the lab, humans are doing the work—but at the same time, we require those humans to be not only efficient but accurate and to give reproducible results,” says Jany Chan, lead “bioinnovator” of aBioBot and a research assistant at Ohio State. “Those things don’t normally fall within the same spheres. So what we’d like to do is bring automation into the lab.”

ABioBot uses an advanced camera, sensors and machine vision algorithms to manage and adapt to all aspects of the wetlab process, including finding and identifying well plates, tracking pipette tips and detecting errors. It is essentially a robotic personal lab assistant.

The intellectual property is assigned to Ohio State and aBioBot has partnered with local companies including Urbity, Knowble, Big Kitty Labs and Bigger Tuna. Much of the work on the prototype is done from flexible workplaces like The Perch in the Short North and The Commonwealth in Upper Arlington.

Created in 2015, aBioBot has been funded with $50,000 in cash and a $50,000 in-kind grant. The goal is to seek additional funding to the tune of $500,000 for further development of the prototype, ideally taking it to market in the next few years. The team sees pharmaceutical companies as among potential customers for the technology and, in the meantime, Ohio State students will likely get a chance to learn from it.

“We would not like to replace the human, it’s really to help the human,” says lead founder Raghu Machiraju, a professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State. “That person can actually focus on the science—instead of worrying so much about mundane tasks you’re really freed to start dreaming again.”

Health app launches

OptimumU, the health coaching app created by serial entrepreneur Morgan Koth, is finding decent traction in its first month available for smartphone download.

Inspired to build the app because of his father’s death from diabetes, Koth says there were about 500 downloads between the March 10 launch and April 11—without any marketing efforts.

“I wanted to continue through beta longer,” he says, “because I wanted the app to really get the user experience and get some more feedback.”

It’s been all word-of -mouth since rolling out the HIPAA-compliant, advertising-free app. OptimumU, developed by Columbus-based Big Kitty Labs, tracks 23 health indicators and nudges users based on their personal health histories.

Koth plans to make a big marketing push for the second iteration, which he expects will be available July 1.

That’s subject to change, he says, while offering a bit of advice to fellow entrepreneurs: Your venture is always going to cost more than expected, be slower to acquire clients and end up being all-around tougher.