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Firefly Nets $500K Grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center announced on Wednesday it has awarded Firefly BioWorks a $500,000 matching grant.

The grant from the center's Small Business Matching Grant program matches small business grant funds that a company has been awarded previously through a federal agency.

Based in Cambridge, Mass., Firefly develops technology platforms for multiplexed biomarker detection and recently launched its first product for the detection of microRNAs, which have shown promise in diagnosing cancer, neurological diseases, and other disorders.

Firefly Co-founder and CEO Davide Marini said in a statement on Wednesday, "We are developing next-generation assays to enable non-invasive, routine cancer screening, and with these funds our products will reach clinical scientists and research hospitals much sooner."

The grant to Firefly represents the third round of awards issued under the Small Business Matching Grant program established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2008. Eight companies have received a total of $14 million since the first round of awards in May 2010. A total of 18 companies applied for the current award round, the center said.

To qualify for the matching grant program, a company must have received a Phase II or post-Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award or Small Business Technology Transfer award from a federal agency, such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, or US Department of Defense.

Firefly received a $2 million Phase II SBIR grant from the National Cancer Institute last summer to further develop its miRNA assay. Its core technology was developed in the laboratory of Patrick Doyle, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a co-founder of Firefly.

The company said at the time it was awarded the SBIR grant that its open platform would allow industrial, academic, and clinical researchers to develop and use multiplexed biological assays on standard laboratory instruments. The initial products, it said, would consist of encoded hygrogel microparticles that can be read on standard flow cytometers, microarray readers, and fluorescence microscopes.

As reported by GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication Gene Silencing News, Firefly launched its initial product, called the FirePlex custom assay, in March.