Company: Innovative Biosensors HQ: College Park, MD Founded: 2003
Management: Joe Hernandez is founder and CEO. He previously worked in marketing, sales, and business development at Digene Corporation, Affymetrix, and Merck.
Investors: In May 2005, the company raised $3.5 million in Series A financing led by Harbert Venture Partners, LLC. Other investors include New Markets Growth Fund and the Maryland Venture Fund. The company was previously funded by grants. Researchers at MIT developed the core technology, called CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields), through funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command.
Business Model: The company licensed the CANARY technology from MIT Lincoln Laboratory. It has used CANARY to create biosensors for the detection of pathogens. The original innovation by MIT researchers created a sensor that gave “cells that comprise the body’s first line of defense against viruses and bacteria the ability to glow like jellyfish in the presence of contaminants,” according a 2003 press release announcing the breakthrough. Innovative Biosensors’ first product detects E. coli bacteria and is intended for use by the food preparation industry. The detection kit consists of two small centrifuges, a luminometer, and analysis software. The kit is able to detect pathogens in just five minutes – instead of requiring that samples be sent to a laboratory, which takes up to 48 hours. Furthermore, the test can be conducted by someone with minimal training. Future target markets include animal health, bio-defense, and human health care, including drug discovery and disease diagnosis.
Competitors: Biacore, Oxford Biosensors
Dirt: Hernandez did well to recognize the broad potential of the CANARY technology beyond defense applications. Not only did he start Innovative Biosensors by licensing the technology from MIT, but he was also able to efficiently underwrite the venture by taking advantage of government grants and an incubator in Maryland. On the heels of this funding, Hernandez has gone on the record as saying he predicts his company will break even in 2007 and could reap up to $70 million in sales by 2009.