Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Device to Fight Cancer

A new microdissection device is able to produce DNA samples for genetic testing from slide-mounted tissue samples to help diagnose and treat cancer. The inventors say the microdissection device is an effective and a more reasonably priced method for removing tissue samples from microscope slides when the samples are needed for genetic testing.

Co-inventor Katherine Geiersbach, M.D., Assistant Professor in the University of Utah’s Department of Pathology identified the need for the device while working in molecular oncology at the Associated Regional and University Pathologists (ARUP) reference laboratory that performs laboratory testing for University Healthcare and for other hospital systems across the country. She was frustrated by the lack of a method that was more precise than hand-scraping.

The Salt Lake City Utah startup company AvanSci Bio is selling the microdissection device called “MESO-1”. The company was formed in 2011 and has attracted significant funding including a $50,000 grant from the University of Utah, more than $500,000 from private investors, and recently, a $213,000 SBIR grant. The company sees additional funding on the horizon.

MESO-1 falls in between two competing methods by providing a more accurate sample than scraping slides by hand, while being much less expensive than laser methods. The company expects to sell the device for a base price of $20,000.

“Their device addresses a need in clinical laboratories for a slide microdissection system that is semi-automated, precise, and convenient to use for the pathologist,” said Beth Drees, a manager at the university’s Technology Commercialization Office (TCO) that assisted AvanSci Bio in a number of ways. “A growing number of molecular tests require that specific cells of interest, such as tumor cells be dissected out from slide-mounted tissue samples.”

The company believes their device will be helpful to as many as 500 clinical labs, ARUP, and 2,500 research labs. The company projects a 20 percent annual market growth rate due to its unique capabilities and the rising popularity of genetic testing. In addition, the company anticipates developing more versions of the device for different levels of accuracy and higher volumes of testing.

Getting the device ready for market was a collaborative effort, with ARUP playing an integral role in its development by providing the mechanical engineering expertise, AvanSci Bio developed the early prototypes of a specialized bit called the xScisor, led the biochemical testing, supervised the development process, and was involved in the instrument and software design.

TCO provided resources to secure patient protection and guided the project through the SBIR grant application process. The University of Utah’s Software Development Center assisted faculty inventors in developing the MESO-1 imaging software. TCO also provided marketing resources through an affiliated program called PoleVault Media, a student media company that supplies everything from business cards to web design.

For more information, go to or go to the University department Technology Venture Development at