Changing the World with Science
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Alexis Emm
“Here in Central New York, we’re going to be really making a huge difference, and we’re going to impact people’s lives across the world,” said Cindy Dowd Greene, president of Quadrant Epigenetics, LLC, and COO of Quadrant Biosciences Inc.
Cindy and the team at Quadrant Epigenetics, part of local company Quadrant Biosciences Inc., are planning to release a diagnostic aid for developmental specialists to use to streamline the diagnostic process for children with autism. The test — the first of its kind, due to the fact that it uses saliva to test micro and microbial RNAs — is slated to be released later this year in at least 43 states.
While Cindy didn’t always know she wanted to go into the business side of science, she always knew she wanted to make a difference.
Originally from Baldwinsville, Cindy went to college at Clarkson University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. However, after college, she worked as an engineer for only about 15 months. She quickly found the business side to be a better fit.
“One of the things I will say is that I would still complete an engineering degree because it taught me a way to think,” Cindy said, adding that her study in the male-dominated field also prepared her for the business world, which had similar demographics at the time.
She and her husband, also a chemical engineer, lived in a couple different states before returning to the Central New York area for her husband’s career.
When they moved back, Cindy had recently retired from a career at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she’d been part of the Technical Operations division and the U.S. Oncology and Immunology Division executive team.
She’d planned to pursue work in the nonprofit sector, but ended up consulting for a startup business for a number of years at the request of a friend.
She also started a consulting firm with colleagues from BristolMyers Squibb, and then consulted for a trade association in the pharmaceutical industry.
She then received a call that would lead her down a life-changing path. A colleague told her about a job at SUNY Upstate in Industry Relations that Cindy would be a great match for. She took the part-time position, and it was during that time that she met Richard Uhlig, the founder and CEO of Quadrant Biosciences.
Richard, previously the chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley Bank, had been inspired to get involved with concussion research after his son suffered from a concussion. He founded Motion Intelligence, which eventually became Quadrant Biosciences.
Meanwhile, Cindy retired from Upstate. She stayed in touch with Richard and, in August 2015, joined Quadrant Biosciences.
Soon after, they learned of a small pilot study that looked at the saliva of about two dozen children with autism and about 21 neurotypical children that could distinguish, with more than 95 percent accuracy, between the two groups of children.
“It’s a huge need, and we all recognized the need,” Cindy said. “Almost everyone you know knows someone who is affected by autism.”
The ongoing study, “Validation of a Salivary miRNA Diagnostic Test for Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which looks at the saliva of children ages 2 to 6, is the first of its kind. It uses micro and microbial RNAs to determine whether a child is likely to have autism.
The gold standard assessment for autism, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), is only about 75 percent accurate and is not utilized by all clinicians. Today, clinicians utilize many different tools to provide a diagnosis of autism.
It currently takes years to obtain a diagnosis. According to a recent market research study they conducted amongst parents with children with ASD, they reported the average age of their suspicion their child had autism was 2.7 years and the average age of diagnosis for their child was 4.5 years.
“We’re really establishing new science,” Cindy said.
The company is expected to launch the saliva-based diagnostic aid later this year. Quadrant Epigenetics’ team is also doing research for biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) and the success rate of anorexia therapies. In the future, they plan to conduct biomarker studies in ADHD, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
Cindy’s work doesn’t stop with the field of science. Chair of the Baldwinsville board of managers at the time, Cindy led the 15-year effort to build the Northwest Family YMCA.
“We have a beautiful facility,” she said. “And, believe me, the facility exists because the community stood behind us for more than 15 years.”
Cindy is also an SU basketball fan and a supporter of the arts in Central New York along with everything else the area has to offer.
“People who say there’s nothing to do here live under a rock,” she joked.
Though she hasn’t officially landed in the nonprofit sector, Cindy’s been working to make a difference her entire career, from getting antibiotics to children when she worked for Bristol-Myer Squibb to Quadrant Epigenetics’ innovative work with autism diagnosis.
“It has been really important to me to make a difference in people’s lives,” Cindy said. SWM
To learn more about Quadrant Epigenetics’ autism study, visit upstate.edu/autismstudy.