BioForce Gets $500,000 SBIR Grant
BioForce Nanosciences of Ames, Iowa, has received a $500,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research from the NIH to further develop its NanoArrayer technique for creating ultra-miniaturized microarrays, the company said this week.
The NanoArrayer’s microfabricated deposition tools allow the user to deposit as few as several hundred attoliters on each spot of an array. So far, BioForce has used the NanoArrayer to fit 1,521 antibody spots within the impossibly small area of 85 square micrometers. Because of the size of the spots, the company has been able to use atomic force microscopy to detect binding interactions on the arrays.
BioForce has a partnership with Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin of the NCI-Food and Drug Administration proteomics program to apply the NanoArray technology to protein chips.
This grant allows BioForce to develop the NanoArrayer for wider commercial use. “The NanoArrayer will provide the end user with a turnkey system for the construction of simple to complex biomolecular NanoArrays,” stated company founder and chief science officer Eric Henderson.
DNA Chip Reader to Debut at State Fair
In a novel twist on genomics tools marketing, startup Blizzard Genomics plans to debut its pint-sized DNA-chip reader at the Minnesota State Fair next month, the company said.
Blizzard’s founder, Marty Blumenfeld, developed the reader in his lab at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul. The reader relies not on costly lasers but on LED technology.
Though the market for DNA-chip screeners is already crowded with the likes of Agilent and PerkinElmer, Blumenfeld, a cell biologist, said his reader will be significantly smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the smallest, lightest, and cheapest scanner now available. Unlike PerkinElmer’s scanners, which weigh as much as 100 pounds and are the size of small copy machines, this tool will be the size of a toaster, weigh about 15 pounds, and cost half as much as the least-expensive comparable product without sacrificing read-quality, Blumenfeld said.
Blizzard, founded in 1999, managed to secure $1.6 million from Global Genomics, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm, in 2000. Of that initial seed capital, the two-person company has enough cash to last two or three more months, Blumenfeld said.
He reckoned the company now needs about $5 million to finish the development stage and begin building and marketing the tool — a formidable goal at a time when the private-equity markets are well fed but seemingly quixotic.
The company has made strides, though: The chip reader is now in the hands of a team of engineers who will build it into a marketable product. Blizzard also has an undisclosed number of angel investors who have faith in the tool, and Blumenfeld said he has left the door open for corporate suitors.
“Whatever it takes [to get the reader on the market], we’ll do it,” he said. “Anything is possible as long as the price is right.”
Agilent, Affymetrix License their Platforms
Agilent has licensed a host of microarray and gene-expression tools to nascent drug-developer Incyte Genomics.
Among the tools Incyte will get are Agilent’s catalog and custom microarrays, microarray readers, Rosetta Resolver software, and an undisclosed number of model 1100 liquid chromatographs/mass spec systems.
Meanwhile, Affymetrix has granted a broad license for its gene chip system to Immunex, the two companies said last week. The license includes access to arrays, instrumentation, and gene expression software.
Glycominds and Schott Get $1M to Develop Biochips
Glycominds, of Lod, Israel, and Schott Glass Technologies of Duryea, Penn., have been awarded a grant of $1 million from the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation to develop carbohydrate microarrays.
Initially, the two companies will focus on developing biochip technology for analysis of essential biological interactions mediated by glycans. Glycans play a key role in autoimmune, inflammation and bacterial diseases.
The two companies plan to combine Glycominds glycan microarray technology and Schott’s experience in glass surface chemistry and coating technologies.
“Combining the expertise of two specialized disciplines will enable a high-quality new class of biochip that will accelerate R&D in the pharmaceutical industry,” stated Avinoam Dukler, CEO of Glycominds.