ChipCare Corp., a spin-off company from University of Toronto in Canada developing hand-held diagnostics devices to replace fixed expensive lab equipment, secured $2.05 million in early stage angel financing. The deal combines investments from university, private-sector, and Canadian government sources, according to an announcement by Grand Challenges Canada, a government-financed organization supporting medical innovations in Canada and the third world.
The company’s first product is a hand-held blood testing device built with microfluidics or lab-on-a-chip technology. The device, resembling a supermarket bar code scanner, needs only a tiny blood sample, but can test the sample for HIV in a few minutes. Most HIV tests today require analysis by a flow cytometer, an expensive electronic lab device that performs a variety of medical diagnostics.
Research for the cell analyzer, as the device is called by ChipCare, was conducted in the University of Toronto engineering lab of Stewart Aitchison that investigates optical signal processing for applications in biomedical and physical sciences. Among the lab’s specialties is integrated biosensors for lab-on-chip applications.
The cell analyzer is the work of James Dou, a graduate student in Aitchison’s lab, and the co-founder of ChipCare with Lu Chen, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab. Dou envisioned the cell analyzer in his master’s thesis at University of Toronto and since 2006 has been leading the project to commercialize the technology.
Dou received a Heffernan Fellowship from the university to commercialize the research and was awarded with Aitchison one of the university’s 2012 inventors of the year for their work with the device. He serves as ChipCare’s chief technologist, while Chen is the company’s product development director.
Grand Challenges Canada is leading the financial round, with contributions from Maple Leaf Angels, MaRS Innovation, and University of Toronto. Maple Leaf Angels is a group of high net worth private individuals who invest in seed and early stage technology companies. MaRS Innovation is a consortium of 15 Canadian universities, teaching hospitals, and research institutes that collaborate on commercializing research findings. Specific contributions from these sources were not disclosed.
The proceeds of the round are expected to support the next three years of the device’s development including refinement of its functionality, a more robust prototype, and a reduction in its cost as it moves closer to commercial scale. While the device is first expected to analyze blood samples for HIV, ChipCare plans to expand its diagnostic functions to cover other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.
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