Aurora company says it can diagnose disease faster
AURORA, Colorado – A biotechnology firm in Aurora says it has invented a device that could dramatically speed the time it takes to test for disease.
Beacon Biotechnology is seeking funding to broaden tests of the device, a disposable computer chip about the size of a pencil eraser. The company says the chip can use a single drop of body fluid to detect up to 112 diseases or genetic conditions in as little as 15 minutes.
Biotechnology entrepreneur Fred Mitchell says he wants to raise about $8 million to expand tests of the chip so that he can seek federal approval for marketing.
If successful, Beacon will join the competitive ranks of biotech companies with products that allow doctors to speed diagnoses.
“The ability to diagnose something quickly and treat it, or reassure patients that they don’t have something, is a big benefit,” said Michelle Barron, an assistant professor in the infectious-disease division at the University of Colorado Denver.
“As a society, we want an answer now, not two days from now,” Barron told The Denver Post. “Medicine doesn’t always work that way, but it’s a good goal.”
Mitchell said that in a recent test, Beacon’s “BrightSpot” device accurately detected an HIV-positive blood sample in 13 minutes, compared to a commercially available unit that took three hours.
Beacon, launched in late 2006, has raised just under $1 million from investors. Like most biotech companies, Beacon’s funding has slowed considerably in the past year in concert with the weakening economy.
Still, Mitchell is seeking about $8 million in venture capital and licensing fees – an amount that would enable the firm to bring a highly sensitive quick-test unit to market by 2011 that could detect swine flu and other strains.
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