Michael Kane relies heavily on the platypus, though the wombat is growing on him. In his line of work, the less known the animal, the better the explanation for his new company, Trivera Biotechnology, based on a gene expression discovery technology that builds a cDNA library so scientists can study any organism without having its sequence on the books.
Kane, cofounder and president of Trivera, also helped develop the technology, which began in the labs of fellow Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Genomic Solutions, where he is still vice president of R&D. When Genomic Solutions restructured last year, the discovery technology, which had been in the works for years, got axed — giving Kane the opportunity to secure an exclusive license to the technology, finish up its development, and launch a company to commercialize it with co-developer Aaron Nagel.
The startup’s not a first for Kane, 36, who began another company in animal work a few years ago “on a much smaller scale,” he says. That one still exists, but was never marketed to grow and take off. Despite a staff of fewer than five people, Trivera is looking to take the next step. “I’m a much more entrepreneurial scientist than I thought I was,” Kane says. It has partnered with Omaha, Neb.-based Transgenomic to use the company’s HPLC separation and identification system as part of the discovery technology. And though no customers have signed on yet, Trivera is currently talking to pharma and ag companies.
“The next growth phase we see in genomics will be in models we don’t typically see in research, where DNA microarray technology can play an important role but there’s just no DNA sequence or libraries available,” says Kane, who was previously doing gene expression research at Pfizer. “If they wanted to study the wombat heart … Trivera could build the library to produce the microarray and deliver those genes. … You have to really fill in the pieces for people who are studying wombats.”
— Meredith Salisbury