Singulex, a four-year-old biotech company based at the Center for Emerging Technologies in St. Louis, has a handful of employees, no product, and is still in the process of applying for patents. In short, it was the perfect time for Philippe Goix, founder and former CTO of cell-analysis firm Guava Technologies, to come aboard.
Goix, who has an MBA and a PhD in physics, founded Guava in 1998 based on a cell analysis platform used to count and copy cells. The name “Guava” came about because Goix and his startup team were “ambitious enough to think we could become the Apple of biology,” he explains. “It was also kind of like a play on my name.” In the six years between starting Guava and heading to Singulex, Goix raised $27 million in equity capital and launched a product. Guava was clearly in a growth phase, Goix says. “For me, the execution and scaling of a business is a different type of skill set than building it.”
His zeal for the startup life led him to look into an opportunity at Singulex, which was in its precommercialization stage and trying to get into the diagnostics arena. “Basically, the technology is analyzing molecules in suspension,” Goix says. The platform can identify specific molecules by linking them to a fluorescent marker, for example. The sensitivity of the technology effectively “expands the detection limits of an immunoassay by orders of magnitude [down to] the attomolar range,” he adds. Another use is in infectious disease detection, where the tool can pick out organisms with “very, very few copies” in a sample, Goix says. “That provides an early detection mechanism.”
But the technology is still in relatively early stages. “We are building a series of very specific patent applications,” Goix says, to help the team’s effort to deliver a system approach to both the drug discovery and clinical market. “A lot of the development is going to have to be done close to the customer. That’s how you gain a competitive advantage.”
After joining Singulex last fall, Goix says his initial goals are to help the team make a product out of its technology and to open an office in California, closer to the main customer base. “We are still [in the process of] fleshing out how we can best take advantage of this technology,” he says. But he hopes for great things in what he sees as the transformed diagnostics realm. “The old diagnostics paradigm — that didn’t excite me at all. What excites me is this new wave of drug discovery and development that’s going to lead to a need for better molecular diagnostic capabilities.”
— Meredith Salisbury