Fresh Perspectives Pay Off For U.Va. Start-ups

MicroLab Diagnostics Acquired

University of Virginia start-up company MicroLab Diagnostics Inc. was acquired in May by ZyGEM Corp. Ltd.,a biotechnology company specializing in DNA extraction and testing solutions. MicroLab will continue to operate in Charlottesville as a new business unit of the company, which also has offices in California and New Zealand.

Founded in 2003 on technology developed by U.Va.’s James P. Landers, Ph.D., and licensed by the U.Va. Patent Foundation, MicroLab uses lab-on-a-chip technology to miniaturize and streamline the chemical processes involved in biochemical analysis, including DNA testing. Taking the form of a single device smaller than a credit card, MicroLab’s innovative technology has the potential to deliver accurate DNA results in the lab or in the field in under an hour, making it particularly well suited for applications such as forensics, biodefense, point-of-care diagnostics and food pathogen testing. Full story.

U.Va.-based Home Male Fertility Test Gets FDA OK

U.Va. biotechnology start-up ContraVac Inc. received U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance in May for SpermCheck Fertility, a new, over-the-counter product that allows men to check their fertility status in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Developed by U.Va. inventor John C. Herr, Ph.D., and colleagues, SpermCheck Fertility uses a platform similar to a home pregnancy test to measure a man’s sperm count. The Patent Foundation licensed the patented technology to ContraVac, founded by Herr, to commercialize the discoveries and bring associated products to the public.

Already being sold in Europe, SpermCheck Fertility is one of a family of products being developed by ContraVac. The company plans to make SpermCheck Fertility commercially available in the U.S. in the coming months. SpermCheck Vasectomy received FDA clearance in 2008 for post-vasectomy sterility monitoring and is currently being sold online and by physicians to their patients throughout the U.S. Full story.

EpiEP Receives $1.5 Million Investment

EpiEP Inc., a medical device company spun out of U.Va., received $1.5 million in investments and commitments for the development of its novel EpiAccess system, which shows promise to improve and expand the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia and other heart conditions.

Based on technology invented by U.Va. faculty members Srijoy Mahapatra, M.D., and George T. Gillies, Ph.D., and licensed from the U.Va. Patent Foundation, the EpiAccess system has the goal of providing minimally invasive access to the epicardium, the heart’s outermost tissue. The Patent Foundation has filed for international patent protection on the researchers’ discoveries, which it licensed to the company in April.

EpiEP, which is now headquartered in New Haven, Conn., received $1 million from Connecticut Innovations’ Eli Whitney Fund. It also acquired funding from LaunchCapital and private investors, completing its first round of funding. Full story.

U.Va. Start-ups ‘Sparking Economic Growth’

Three companies with U.Va. roots are among the successful University-related ventures showcased in a national report on economic development published in April. Adenosine Therapeutics LLC, Directed Vapor Technologies International Inc. and ContraVac Inc. are featured in “Sparking Economic Growth: How Federally Funded University Research Creates Innovation, New Companies and Jobs,” produced by the Science Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 50 top U.S. public and private research universities.

Citing 100 successful federally funded university start-up companies and 13 additional thriving “companies with academic research at their core,” the report demonstrates the significant return on investment that occurs when federal funds are used to advance basic university research. Full story.