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With Series A Funding, Adarza Shifting to Production Mode for Multiplex Protein Detection Platform

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — Startup Adarza Biosystems said last week that it has raised $6.8 million in a Series A financing round to support the commercialization of its first multiplex protein detection array and readout system by next year and to continue developing additional multiplex assays in collaboration with academic research partners.

Specifically, the new funds will help move the company from a focus on development to commercial production of its first array consumable, Adarza's CEO Rand Henke told BAN this week. Though Adarza is currently based primarily in Rochester, NY, the firm is planning a move to St. Louis, where it has contracted to lease a space for this commercialization, Henke said. Adarza initially hoped to launch its first chip — a 100-plex array focused on cytokines and inflammatory markers — commercially as early as 2012, but is now aiming to bring it to market by the second quarter of 2015.

"We have been doing a lot of engineering to get the product ready for manufacturing and validation, as well as assay development demonstration with first-adopter customers, showing that it performs with their samples and assay conditions," Henke said.

Adarza's platform is based on what it calls Arrayed Imaging Reflectrometry, or AIR, an analyte detection technology based on IP licensed from the University of Rochester. AIR is a label-free, silicon chip-based biosensor that the company has said offers sensitivity comparable to ELISA — down to the sub-picogram-per-milliliter range depending on the analyte — and much higher dynamic range, with the ability to multiplex up to thousands of reactions.

"[AIR] is a broad product platform, with applications in a wide variety of areas including basic life science research, clinical research, diagnostic pipelines, animal and plant research, environmental exposure, and hygiene," Henke said, adding that the company has worked with early testers in all those areas.

The AIR system uses an anti-reflective silicon chip coating that enables the detection of probe-target pairs by optically sensing molecular binding at the chip surface. In the case of protein detection, this involves functionalizing the chip surface with antibodies for the target analytes and then introducing a sample of interest. The binding of proteins to the bait antibodies changes the reflectivity of the chip surface and this change can then be correlated to the amount of bound target protein to determine the quantity of protein in the sample.

According to Adarza, AIR can be readily adapted to profile protein biomarkers in blood, urine, or other fluids, and the directness of its readout also makes it simpler, quicker, and less expensive than other array systems.

One group working with AIR, at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has been evaluating the system for several years for protein biomarker validation in prostate and bladder cancers. Henke said this project has since expanded, but did not provide additional details.

In 2012, Adarza also initiated a project funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to apply the AIR system to measure environmental exposure. This effort — aimed at creating a field-deployable device to measure protein markers of physiological responses to particulate matter in the workplace or environment — is still ongoing, Henke said this week.

In a description of research in this vein, for which Adarza received $245,912 from NIEHS in 2013, the company wrote that it has adapted its technology into a portable multiplex detection system that can profile markers of toxic environmental exposure — cytokines and other protein biomarkers related to inflammation, oxidative stress, and coagulation — in a finger-stick blood sample.

Adarza wrote that the 2013 funding would support the creation and optimization of a five-plex array targeting bisphenol A, triclosan, benzo[a]pyrene, napthalene, and chlordane, with additional research in the future expected to expand this panel to cover other environmental exposure markers that the company has been researching.

In 2011, Henke told BAN that the company had interest from a US defense contractor to apply its environmental exposure work to a chip for analyzing war fighter readiness and measuring soldiers' exposure to toxins in the field.

According to the company, the technology could also allow researchers to quantitatively profile physiological responses to environmental stressors in large population studies, in addition to public and industrial health, defense, and homeland security applications.

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