Cunningham eventually developed five tests that can confirm whether children are suffering from PANDAS and similar autoimmune disorders.
“Once we began to publish our results, parents wanted us to open a study where we could take their children and that would help us see what was going on,” Cunningham said. “So, that’s what we did. We studied approximately 1,000 patients over a year and a half.”
The tests were so effective that Cunningham collaborated with veteran entrepreneur Craig Shimasaki to found a company known as Moleculera Labs.
Since it was founded in 2011, Moleculera Labs has established certified testing laboratories and began offering the tests commercially. It already has tested 1,500 samples using technology licensed from OU.
“Parents are so grateful,” Cunningham said. “They feel it has saved their children’s lives. They are very tearful and emotional about it.”
Moleculera Labs also has received more than $2 million in investment capital from i2E, Inc., and other regional and local angel investors.
Cunningham shares her love of science with children outside of her laboratory. Earlier this year, she made a presentation to a group of first graders using pond water and a microscope in a fascinating program on germs.
“The children were so excited, and the teacher said it was one of the best presentations they had all year,” she said. “They stood in line to look through the microscope until their mothers came to pick them up.”
As she told me that story, Cunningham was reminded of a science project from her childhood.
“I had this fantastic bug collection, and of course got an A-plus on it,” she said. “My father loved it, because science was a big part of his life.”
A love of science transferred long ago from father to daughter.
Jim Stafford is a communications specialist with i2E Inc. in Oklahoma City.
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I had this fantastic bug collection, and of course got an A-plus on it. My father loved it, because science was a big part of his life.”