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Akonni Awarded $150K NSF Grant to Develop Lab-on-Film Microarray as It Seeks More Funds

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By Justin Petrone

Akonni Biosystems said last week that it has been awarded a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant to evaluate a method of manufacturing microarrays that it believes could lower the cost of array-based molecular diagnostic testing.

Akonni will use the Phase I grant to assess lab-on-a-film microarray manufacturing on a "reel-to-reel" assembly line. According to the grant abstract, reel-to-reel manufacturing has the potential to "drastically reduce device cost because hundreds of parts per hour can be assembled."

The main two objectives of the project are to "investigate the feasibility of using materials and films that can be rolled, so as to determine the possibility of manufacturing a lab-on-a-film microarray device," and "develop a valveless PCR-microarray device in a lab-on-a-film format such that a PCR amplicon is confined to the device," the firm stated in the abstract.

In a statement, Christopher Cooney, director of engineering at Akonni and principal investigator on the project, said the high-volume manufacturing method has been used mostly for assembling lateral flow strips and flexible film electronics.

"The benefit of this manufacturing approach is that lab-on-a-film microarray production and assembly can be automated at very high speeds, resulting in 10- to 100-fold savings in costs," he said. If the lab-on-a-film method can be done successfully for microarrays, it may result in highly multiplexed array devices for "just a few dollars," the company said.

The Frederick, Md.-based molecular diagnostics firm also announced last week that it is seeking to raise $8 million. In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Akonni said it has raised $912,598 in the private round of financing so far. It did not say how the proceeds will be used but said the offering is not being made in connection with a merger, acquisition, or exchange offer.

Related persons in the financing include Charles Daitch, CEO of Akonni, and directors Michael Farmer, Tom McMahon, and Chuck Parrish. Previously, Akonni disclosed in SEC filings that it had raised $5 million in March and $1.4 million in May 2009.

In October, Akonni received a $500,000 grant from the US Department of Justice to develop a forensics platform, and the month before, the National Institutes of Health awarded it a $3 million grant in support of development of its multi-drug resistant/extensively drug-resistant genotyping testing technology (BAN 9/21/2010).

During the summer, Akonni also received a $435,000 grant from the National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop a Mycobacterium tuberculosis test.

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