By Mary Welch
Caliper Technologies Corp. will use the $7.4 million recently raised in an equity financingto move its LabChip technology into the areas of genomics, clinical diagnosis andproteomics.
"Our core areas have been in the fields of analytical instrumentation and high-throughputdrug screening," said Larry Bock, one of the founders of the Palo Alto, Calif., company,and now a consultant. "This allows us to expand into new areas."
Although no announcement is expected soon, the company is talking with potentialcollaborators interested in working with Caliper in these new areas.
Caliper has been successful in attracting money. The latest financing involved many of thecompany's investors and partners, including Lombard Odier, of Geneva, Switzerland;Genesis Merchant Group, of San Francisco; and Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto. Sinceits founding in 1995, Caliper has raised $40 million, including $5 million from DowChemical Co., of Midland, Mich., in July 1997.
Earlier this month, Caliper received a $1.4 million U.S. Department of Energy grant towork with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to develop a lab-on-a-chip system to perform proteomics analysis.
Last month, Caliper signed a five-year, $100 million deal with Hewlett-Packard's chemicalanalysis group to further develop and commercialize Caliper's LabChip system. (SeeBioWorld Today, May 14, 1998, p. 1.)
Caliper, which expect to end the year with about $10 million in revenues (double 1997's$5 million), miniaturizes and automates experiments, such as drug screening and DNAanalysis, on microchips the size of a dime.
Dubbed the lab-on-a-chip, the technology can screen compound libraries against genomictargets, diagnose diseases, and conduct bioanalysis of DNA material. Instead of mixingsubstances in a test tube, Caliper uses electrokinetic forces to create an automated systemof microscopic pumps and valves that control movement of tiny volumes of fluids across achip. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 10, 1996, p. 1.)
"It conducts the whole experiment, from sample to results," said Bock. "We put a lab on amicrochip with all the capabilities of a laboratory."
According to Bock, there are four main benefits to LabChips. The first, he said, is speed.Caliper's technology can perform hundreds of thousands of experiments per instrument perday against one target while a typical pharmaceutical company may test 50,000compounds in an entire facility per day.
The second advantage is cost. Typically, a researcher would need 10 to 100 microliters ofreagent or receptor material to conduct one assay to test potential therapeutic compounds.
"It's about $1 per assay, so to test one million assays, which is a reasonable number, it'llcost $1 million," Bock observed. "There's a tremendous cost saving with us because thereagent costs are so much less, because we only use a nanoliter of reagents to screen. Withus the cost to screen that million compounds is $10 to $100 — total."
Thirdly, the work done in the laboratory can be distributed throughout an organizationbecause the data derived from the chips may be stored in digital form in databases andretrieved through networks. "It's like bringing a company from a mainframe to laptops,"he continued.
The fourth benefit is integrating a number of experiments into one chip.
Privately held Caliper has strategic relationships with Dow Chemical, Hewlett-Packardand Hoffmann-LaRoche AG, of Basel, Switzerland. *