Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

Dr. Loretta Mayer, SenesTech Founder, and Chief Scientific Officer

“The NIH SBIR Phase II award provided funding for a project in NYC which really put us on the world stage.”

– Dr. Loretta Mayer, SenesTech Founder, and Chief Scientific Officer

From the Black Plague in the 14th Centurty to the modern day rat infestations of the New York City Subway System, effective rat control has been an on-going challenge for humans. Killing rats with poison can often lead to harmful environmenal impacts and accidental human poisonings.

This is an image of a rat. Enter SenesTech exit disclaimer icon, an innovative NIH SBIR funded company that offers a patented technological solution to limit rodent fertility in a non-lethal and environmentally-friendly way. SenesTech’s lead product ContraPest® exit disclaimer icon is a rodent bait that causes both female and male rats to become permanently infertile once they have orally consumed an effective dose. Since two rat mating couples can generate 15 million descendants over an 8 to 12 month life span, SenesTech offers a longer-term solution that helps to sustainably manage rodent populations and, when used as directed, has no negative consequences for other animal species or humans.

“SenesTech grew out of basic research which focused on post-menopausal women and ovarian health,” explained Dr. Loretta Mayer, SenesTech’s CEO and Chief Scientific Officer. “We realized this work had a practical application that could be translated to wildlife management, and decided to apply for NIH SBIR funding.” SenesTech received an SBIR Phase I award for proof-of-concept research and a Phase II award for early-stage research and development from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for a total of approximately 1.1 million dollars.

This is an image of a New York Metro StationSenesTech’s lead product was tested in a pilot project in the N.Y.C Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway system exit disclaimer icon. The company also has contracts with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) exit disclaimer icon and the City of Somerville in Boston to examine how to more effectively control rodents in their transportation systems and surrounding areas.

“When you have an NIH SBIR award, it gives you credibility. It demonstrates that you have solid science that has been vetted through the rigorous peer review process,” stated Mayer. SenesTech also took advantage of all resources and opportunities through the NIH SBIR program, including the Niche Assessment Program (Niche) and the Commercialization Accelerator Program (CAP). Niche was instrumental in guiding us to consider new markets for our technology. We now have a partnership with a large protein production facility, where the spread of disease by rodents can have devastating consequences,” explains Mayer. Niche also allowed SenesTech to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at their NWRC facility in Ft. Collins, CO for third party testing of ContraPest®. Additionally, the company was selected by the NIH to showcase its product pipeline at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego in front of global life science industry leaders and investors.

SenesTech’s product can currently only be used in EPA approved field studies conducted under an environmental use permit waiver. The company is currently in the process of EPA registration and is hopeful they will receive registration in 2016. The product can be sold commercially once a registration is obtained.

“We are now on the threshold of commercialization with the potential to create an extreme public health and economic impact all over the world,” says Mayer. “Our company just closed our Series A funding round that was financed by private capital. Our Series B round will involve institutional investors.” SenesTech also has been in talks to form a partnership with Orkin LLC exit disclaimer icon that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rollins, Inc. exit disclaimer icon

SenesTech developed several patents and trade secrets, and grew from 4 to 22 employees during the two years of NIH SBIR funding and now has 31 full-time employees. “We are building high-tech jobs in the Flagstaff, Arizona area, and 70% of our employees are women,” says Mayer. A second manufacturing facility, owned by their licensing and manufacturing partner, Neogen, is located in Wisconsin.

“Overall, the company attributes its many successes to its culture of dedication and commitment to team work. We mine for talent in each individual we hire, and maintain a minimal organizational hierarchy. This is possible because of Mayer’s unique, inspirational leadership style,” says Ali Applin, Vice President of Business Development at SenesTech.

Future Products and International Markets
SenesTech’s other product offerings include Eradirat™ which is designed for use in food handling facilities and will soon go to EPA for registration, and ChemSPAY™ which will target feral and stray dogs with intended use in India, China, and West Africa where rabies is a significant public health issue.

NIH is proud of the work that SenesTech is doing to provide a more humane treatment of animals and to improve public health in an environmentally conscious way. Notably, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded SenesTech with the Tibbetts Award, a prestigious recognition of the company’s achievements. This award was presented during a ceremony held at the White House on June 2015 in Washington, D.C. Keep up the amazing work!

SenesTech on Brave New World

Hear SenesTech CEO Dr. Loretta Mayer explain how the rodent bait works on Stephen Hawking's "Brave New World" TV show. Watch Videoexit disclaimer icon.


Location: Flagstaff, Arizona

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Information for this success story was gathered through an interview that was conducted by Dr. Lenka Fedorkova, the NIH SBIR/STTR Program Manager, Betty Royster, the NIH SBIR/STTR Communications Coordinator, and Kirsten Mease, a Program Analyst at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).