Date: Feb 19, 2014 Source: bizjournals (
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A microchip so small it can be implanted in a fruit fly’s brain could be a key to developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses related to the central nervous system.
The sensor, being developed by Columbia-based Diagnostic Biochips, sends real-time data about brain activity to researchers using a wireless signal. The technology is more accurate than MRI scans and less invasive than blood tests, two alternatives currently used in this research. For that reason, the three-year-old Diagnostic Biochips has caught the eye of scientists looking for answers to illnesses like Alzheimer’s and the company is ready to cash in on this big market opportunity.
“It’s a significant improvement to be able to monitor chemicals in real-time in a behaving animal,” said CEO Robert Collins.
The company plans to soon launch an angel investing round and hopes to raise $1.5 million. The money would go toward distribution, marketing and other basic business needs. Diagnostic has a small commercial business for one of its sensors, which detects electrical brain activity. Another sensor that tracks chemical brain activity is in development.
The information scientists gather from using the sensors with animal test subjects could be used by pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs to treat illnesses related to brain function.
But so far, the company’s focus has primarily been on research and development.
Diagnostic Biochips is also among the 41 startups moving forward in the state’s InvestMaryland Challenge. If the company is one of the final four grand prize winners, Collins and his team will take home $100,000. But even if they don’t make it to the end, the startup contest will get Diagnostic Biochips exposure to potential clients and investors.
Up until now, the company’s work has focused on researching and developing its technology, preparing for and completing trials. That work has been primarily funded through a stream of National Institutes of Health grants (a total of $1.6 million over two years).
Diagnostic is not yet profitable. The company’s total funding so far includes $150,000 from angel investors, a $100,000 Maryland Technology Development Corp. award and investments from its founders.