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In-Q-Tel Invests in Biomatrica to Develop Room-Temp Biosample-Storage Tech for Intelligence Industry


By Ben Butkus

In-Q-Tel is investing an undisclosed amount in Biomatrica, a company that sells technology for storing biological samples in room temperature, to support development of a platform incorporating Biomatrica's technology for US intelligence applications, Biomatrica said today.

Biomatrica's SampleMatrix stabilization technology enables samples to be stored outside cold environments while preserving their integrity. The technology reduces the cost of maintaining cold conditions during shipment and storage, according to the company.

The core technology uses a phenomenon called anhydrobiosis as part of a synthetic, chemistry-based stabilization method that forms a thermostable barrier around a sample to provide protection against degradation and loss of biological activity.

Aqueous samples are applied directly to the matrix and air dried at room temperature prior to storage, a step that forms the so-called SampleMatrix barrier. Samples are then recovered by rehydration and are ready for immediate use, Biomatrica said.

The company, based in San Diego, incorporates its technology in several product lines, including DNAstable and DNAgard for genomic and plasmid DNA; RNAstable for RNA; CloneStable for bacterial DNA; and custom services to stabilize other sample types, such as proteins. Biomatrica also sells SampleWare software, a laboratory-management database designed for managing stored and organized samples.

Biomatrica expects its deal with IQT to help it further penetrate the intelligence and defense markets, two of several segments to which it sells products, Biomatrica CEO and co-founder Judy Muller-Cohn told PCR Insider.

"Because of the growing number of DNA samples that are being collected and stored, forensics is one of our big markets," Muller-Cohn said from the floor of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Chicago, where Biomatrica this week is showcasing its technology for use in that market.

"Also, we sell to researchers working in the areas of genomics and personalized medicine," she added, noting that biobanking in particular has recently become a hot application for the company's wares.

Also, its technology "is a building block for diagnostic applications," Muller-Cohn said. "In the future, you'll see our company selling more and more into the molecular diagnostics space."

The agreement with IQT, meantime, fits with Biomatrica's play in the defense and intelligence communities. Currently, the company sells its products to various government defense agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others, Muller-Cohn said.

IQT is an independent strategic investment firm that identifies technologies to support US intelligence efforts. It is unclear how the firm plans to incorporate Biomatrica's technology into a specific technology platform or what that platform might be. Calls to the company were not returned in time for this publication.

In a statement, Syd Ulvick, vice president of physical and biological technologies practices at IQT, said that Biomatrica's technology "is an important addition to our strategic investment portfolio" and that it offers "great promise for both applications in both the government and commercial sector."

Muller-Cohn, citing a confidentiality agreement, declined to provide additional details on the specific platform that IQT and Biomatrica will develop. However, she noted that IQT's business model necessitates that companies in which it invests develop specific products or have specific technologies that can modify or improve existing products.

Past IQT investments in the area of sample prep include a similar partnership and investment inked in February with Arcxis Biotechnologies to commercialize Arcxis' fully automated RNA and DNA sample-prep device.

The product, called Xisyl, is designed to eliminate manual sample-prep steps and provide users with a greater volume of purified starting material for demanding analyses such as organism detection, genotyping, gene expression, and PCR (PCR Insider, 2/4/10).

For Biomatrica, IQT's investment not only provides an up-front financial benefit and potential royalties on future products, it has lined up "valuable potential customers," Muller-Cohn said.

Last May, Biomatrica came out of stealth mode by announcing a partner program intended to advance its SampleMatrix technology and associated products. It also named as initial partners under the program Biostorage Technologies, Eastern Washington University, Matrical Biosciences, and Nexus Biosystems (PCR Insider, 5/12/10).

This week Muller-Cohn said that the company was making progress in the program, particularly in its DNAGard product line for collecting and transporting whole blood at room temperature while stabilizing and protecting genomic DNA.

"I can tell you that we are working on some future partnerships that are very important for our product development in the area of stabilizing DNA and RNA in complex samples such as blood," she said, declining to elaborate due to the early nature of the partnerships.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in PCR Insider? Contact the editor at bbutkus [at] genomeweb [.] com.