A new Tempe-based bioscience company is linking up with a German company to distribute its technology in Europe, a move that could triple the local firm’s annual revenue.
GenoSensor, a company that makes biochips that analyze a patient’s genetic makeup, has signed a distribution deal with the German life sciences company BioCat GmbH. The agreement is expected to help the Tempe company penetrate the large life science and pharmaceutical research markets of the European Union.
“The USA and the EU are the top two markets in the world for genomics research,” said James Xia, president of GenoSensor. “This will enable our products to get to EU researchers.”
The three-and-a-half-year-old company produces glass slides, or chips, that are coated with a chemical polymer with thousands of microscopic DNA probes attached. The probes can detect genes in a patient’s blood, tissue or other samples that are associated with diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
Today the biochip, called a GenoExplorer, is used primarily for research purposes, but in a few years doctors could be using the technology for patient care. By detecting a genetic propensity for a specific disease, physicians can help patients make diet, exercise, medication or other lifestyle decisions that reduce the risk the disease will cause a problem.
“Basically, this is the future of medicine,” said Daniel Johnson, product manager for GenoSensor. “Someday you’ll go to the doctor and get a genetic test, not just a blood test.”
A native of mainland China, Xia came to the United States in 1992 to work at the National Institutes of Health. Later he joined Motorola’s life sciences division, which was located in Tempe, but he found himself out of a job when Motorola sold the operation. That’s when he decided to start his own company, following up on work he had done for Motorola and NIH.
He became a U.S. citizen two years ago.
In less than three years Xia has lined up an impressive list of customers that locally include the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic and the University of Arizona. Nationally, his customers include researchers at Stanford, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Yale.
So far the company’s revenue just about matches its expenses, but Xia hopes to attract venture capital to help the company expand. The company has been approved for a state program that provides tax credits for investors in high tech start-up companies, he said.
Dr. Adrienne Scheck, senior staff scientist for Barrow, said the technology being developed by GenoSensor has long-term potential. “At the moment, it’s not ready for prime time, but at the rate this sort of thing is going, two years can make a big difference,” she said. “Looking for genes that are involved in diseases is a rapidly exploding field.”