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Beset With Finicky Technology and Coy Investors, Xanthon Closes Its Doors

NEW YORK, Sept. 23 - Six years after opening its doors, Xanthon quietly closed them for good.


Unable to roll out its nucleic acid-identification technology fast enough, and facing an arid private-equity market, the company shuttered its facility in Research Triangle Park, NC and laid off its remaining 17 staffers.


"They couldn't quite get the product out the door," said Peter Fair of Aurora Funds, one of Xanthon's initial backers. "They were having problems with the scale-up of it. They could get the technology to work in the lab, but once they tried to scale it up for mass production it was hard to replicate it."


Xanthon's technology relies on an electrochemical platform to help it detect nucleic acids without the need for sample preparation, amplification, or the use of fluorescent, chemiluminescent, or radioactive labels.


The technology, which Xanthon said could have been applied to gene-expression analysis, SNP detection, and nucleic acid-based diagnostics, "crossed a whole lot of spaces--physics, biochem," said Fair. "When you tweak one end of the product it hits everything else, and you have to tweak everything else. They could never get it to work out."


Asked whether the technology might be adopted by another startup, Fair said it is "kind of doubtful, only because there are probably other platforms out there at this point."


The company had been plagued with a series of setbacks in recent months. Last fall, after gremlins stalled a roll-out for the last time, Xanthon responded by firing 10 of its 50 employees. In April, three months after CEO Jim Skinner called it quits, the company laid off additional staff that brought its headcount to 17.


The remaining staff were let go over the summer, and "one or two" people were left behind to turn out the lights and lock up. Calls to the company, which was founded in 1996, went unanswered this morning.

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