Sunday, November 30, 2008

Helping Small Tech Companies

The State of Maryland is actively supporting ongoing initiatives to help small biodefense, biotechnology, and life science companies. According to the FLC NewsLink publication, the Fort Detrick Technology Transfer Initiative (FDTTI) located in Frederick Maryland, provides awards to help for-profit small businesses support technology development projects. The goal is to develop technologies in the medical field as well to commercialize the technologies developed in Fort Detrick’s research laboratories.

With funding from Congress, a partnership was formed between the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, and the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Detrick. Through the FDTTI, companies can receive awards of up to $50,000 for eligible projects, and since 2005, 16 companies have received awards totaling $800,000.

Several of the businesses are housed at the Frederick Innovative Technology Center (FITCI) which is Frederick County’s business incubator. FITCI provides Maryland entrepreneurs a low cost space for startup companies to share resources.

Akonni Biosystems a small Maryland life science company and a graduate of the FITCI incubator won a FDTTI award for $50,000 to develop and sell genetic-based diagnostic and disease surveillance products for infectious and other human health diseases.

Akonnai’s technology is based on a microarray technique developed at the Argonne National Laboratory. The company’s diagnostic TruArray ™ system includes a portable reader device and credit card sized disposable tests where a small blood, urine or saliva sample may be placed. The card is then placed in the reader to process the sample by just pushing a button. The caregiver is able to print out a clinical result in a fraction of the time over current tests and at a significantly reduced cost.

Although the underlying microarray and microfluidic technology has been well tested and proven, this is the first time these patented technologies have been combined to produce an integrated diagnostic device capable of performing a battery of complex medical tests at the push of a button with results available in minutes.

In the spring of 2008, Akonnai received a $200,000 investment from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). According to Governor O’Malley, “Akonni’s cutting edge work with disease detection has global implications and offers hope to millions of people in the world to receive quicker diagnostic answers.

Dr. Charles Daitch, Akonni Biosystems CEO, “With the increasing threat to human health from highly infectious diseases, it is important to note that by using the Akonni’s TruDiagnosis® system, lower disease transmission rates result and healthcare expenditures are reduced through more efficient patient isolation, triage, and more timely and proper prescription of therapeutics.”

Currently, Akonnai is working with the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases to evaluate its microchip identification system in identifying possible biodefense threats.

In other Maryland news, in October 2008, five growing Maryland technology and life sciences companies, all of which previously received Maryland venture funds were awarded an additional $350,000 to assist with the development, sales, and marketing of a number of cutting-edge technologies, medical, and disease detection products.

This additional funding was provided through DBED’s Challenge and Enterprise Investment Funds program to provide financing to small start-up technology companies for a portion of the initial costs associated with bringing new products to market, but companies are required to provide matching funds. The funding went to Neodiagnostix, Aguru Images, Encore Path Inc., Neuronascent Inc., and Sirnamoics Inc. all located in Maryland.