Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Silicon Chip Blood Analysis Inventor, I-Stat Founder Gets Funds to Commercialize Biochip

Premium

Is a competitive microarray technology brewing up north?

At least one funder thinks so, and is opening its wallet.

In mid-January, Genesys Capital Partners of Toronto dipped into the New Generation Biotech Equity Fund to deliver a second round of funding to microarray startup Epocal of Ottawa.

A month into the new year, with North American economies, at best, uninspired, microarray technology offers a glimmer of venture capital light. Array-based companies announcing VC investment closes so far in 2003 include: Amphora Discovery of Research Triangle Park, NC ($23 million); GenoSpectra of Fremont, Calif. ($8 million); and Nano-sphere of Northbrook, Ill. ($5 million in add-on).

For Epocal, the CA $3.1 million capital injection comes from a pool of investment capital created by the United Steelworkers of America, National Local 1976 of Ontario — a labor organization of some 10,000 workers from the airline, rail, trucking, grain, and communications industries — and adds to the CA $3.2 million funding of November 2001.

This investment of hard-earned retirement monies is a bet largely made on the track record of Epocal founder Imants Lauks, who invented the silicon-chip blood analyzer in 1984 and founded i-Stat, an East Windsor, NJ, company that manufactures point-of-care blood analysis products. The technology has since evolved into a pocket-sized analyzer that performs common blood tests at the point of patient care. The company has a market capitalization of $80 million and estimated sales of $54 million for 2002.

Lauks left i-Stat in 1999, bound to a two-year non-compete clause in his employment agreement. This is his first venture since that expired.

In announcing the funding, Genesys said Epocal may be able to commercially launch a product within the next year.

Epocal is creating a biochip that combines microfluidics and microarray technology. Just as the i-Stat device was orders of magnitude less expensive than the tests it replaced, this system could also be disruptively priced. Certainly, price is a major hurdle for microarray-based analytics to enter the point-of-care diagnostics market.

Lauks did not return several calls for comment. The company, said Kelly Holman, managing director for Genesys and a Epocal board member, has applied for patents, and is mindful of the litigious atmosphere in the field.

In 2001, Lauks told the Ottawa Business Journal: “Our plan is to be a global player in biotechnology. I see no reason why Epocal couldn’t be a whole lot bigger.”

— MOK

The Scan

Study Tracks Off-Target Gene Edits Linked to Epigenetic Features

Using machine learning, researchers characterize in BMC Genomics the potential off-target effects of 19 computed or experimentally determined epigenetic features during CRISPR-Cas9 editing.

Coronary Artery Disease Risk Loci, Candidate Genes Identified in GWAS Meta-Analysis

A GWAS in Nature Genetics of nearly 1.4 million coronary artery disease cases and controls focused in on more than 200 candidate causal genes, including the cell motility-related myosin gene MYO9B.

Multiple Sclerosis Contributors Found in Proteome-Wide Association Study

With a combination of genome-wide association and brain proteome data, researchers in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology tracked down dozens of potential multiple sclerosis risk proteins.

Quality Improvement Study Compares Molecular Tumor Boards, Central Consensus Recommendations

With 50 simulated cancer cases, researchers in JAMA Network Open compared molecular tumor board recommendations with central consensus plans at a dozen centers in Japan.