UW Spin-out NanoFacture Gives Researchers a Low-Cost Alternative to Purifying DNA Samples; Targets $3 Billion Device Market
More than 45,000 research laboratories worldwide, and 8,000 in the US alone, conduct research that requires DNA separation and purification, driving a $3 billion global market for sample preparation devices and disposables in 2013. The median recurring annual sample preparation budget for reagents and kits is $5K to $10K per lab. NanoFacture, a new UW spin-out, is bringing to market a technology that addresses the challenge to rapidly concentrate and purify DNA using a very simple protocol with yields comparable to that of popular commercial kits, but at a much lower cost.
NanoFacture has licensed technology from UW to introduce its first product, NanoFacture DRS (DNA Recovery System), intended for both sample preparation and long-term storage. NanoFacture DRS aims to bring the power of lab-quality results to the point-of-care setting. The company is working with KNR Systems of South Korea to manufacture the DRS appliances, while NanoFacture will make the interchangeable micro/nano-tip cartridges here in Washington.
Innovation Springs from UW Lab Research
NanoFacture was founded in 2006 by company CEO Kyong-Hoon Lee and UW Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jae-Hyun Chung based on an innovation emerging from research supported through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the UW Center for Commercialization.
The goal of NanoFacture is to develop low-cost point-of-care medical devices based on nanoengineering, the practice of engineering on the nanoscale, which derives its name from the nanometer, a unit of measurement equaling one billionth of a meter. The ability to manipulate extremely small materials and systems allows NanoFacture to achieve the formerly unfeasible in DNA separation and purification, both rapidly and affordably. By comparison, the current state-of-the-art for DNA prep can be likened to using a crane to collect a human hair – an error-prone and time-consuming endeavor.
The company’s proprietary technology concentrates and purifies DNA samples using a combination of an electric field, chemical affinity, and capillary action. The process occurs upon the surface of a low‐cost micro/nano-tip housed in a disposable cartridge. NanoFacture’s method achieves results equivalent to those achieved by traditional DNA systems used by research and clinical laboratories, but at a lower cost and smaller footprint than traditional filtration techniques that require washing and use of a centrifuge. Additionally, the proprietary tip materials can quickly dry the sample, enabling long‐term storage for sample archiving.
C4C Resources Help NanoFacture Advance to Market
Founders Lee and Chung have worked with the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) since the early stages of device development. C4C introduced the NanoFacture team to key resources including in-house patent agents to assist in managing intellectual property, a grant writer to secure NSF and NIH funding, and entrepreneurs-in-residence to shape the company’s direction and develop a marketing strategy. In addition, C4C provided a grant through its Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF) for the design of a NanoFacture prototype. Developed through the UW Industrial Design Collaboration Program led by Professor Sang-gyeun Ahn, the prototype was an essential step to validating the competitiveness of the technology.
“To experience the process of American entrepreneurism–from R&D to IP generation and management to business development and license agreement–has been fantastic,” said CEO Lee. “I truly appreciate the help we’ve received from C4C and UW Mechanical Engineering in prototype design and construction and throughout the entire process.”
For more information about the NanoFacture technology, read the UW Today article, “New device can extract human DNA with full genetic data in minutes”.