Micronics, Inc., based in Redmond, has developed a series of plastic cards that can fit in a wallet. These are not credit cards though. Each microfluidic card is a powerful “point-of-care” mini-lab that can analyze blood and other fluids quickly and cost-effectively, possibly performing up to twenty diagnostic tests with just a few drops of blood. With these cards, doctors and emergency workers can carry around the equivalents of full-size lab equipment in their pocket.
Although the microfluidic cards have many applications, building a company around them is challenging because the cards are a disruptive technology. There is nothing like them, and they do not yet have a recognized place in the market, says Karen Hedine, Micronics’ president. Micronics may therefore develop supporting technology, such as software for lab card analysis, that will make the cards more practical to adopt.
Based on university research
The core of Micronics’ technology was developed at the University of Washington. Professor Paul Yager and his colleagues in Bioengineering, Laboratory Medicine, Molecular Biotechnology, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering started researching point-of-care diagnostics in the early 1990s. WTC funded the group’s initial research in portable stat labs.
The microfluidics research that emerged from the lab was so ground breaking that Senmed Medical Ventures, a venture capital group that funded the group starting in 1994, felt a platform with broad commercial applications could be developed. It licensed from the University of Washington the rights to the technology and formed Micronics in 1996.
Long time support from WTC
Washington Technology Center (WTC) has been a long time supporter of Micronics, even before the company was actually formed. WTC funded the University of Washington research lab that developed the core microtechnology that was “spun out” into Micronics. The WTC has also awarded grants for research projects between the University of Washington and Micronics, facilitated contacts with researchers, and provided use of the state-of-the-art Microfabrication Lab. While Micronics was forming, its first employee kept his office in WTC’s Fluke Hall.
Micronics still collaborates with university researchers through WTC’s Research and Technology Development (RTD) program. Micronics has participated in three WTC projects, each with a different researcher studying a relevant aspect of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The ties between Micronics and university research are also strong because some of Micronics employees were hired after completing postdoctoral fellowships in Yager’s lab.
Micronics is small, employing about fifteen people, but it is poised to make a significant impact on the microfluidics industry.
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