ZyGEM Corp Ltd announced that it has acquired MicroLab Diagnostics Inc, a private company developing microfluidic devices for rapid DNA testing.

ZyGEM intends to market products integrating its unique DNA extraction and reagents and detection assays with the breakthrough microfluidic chip technology developed by MicroLab, which will operate as a business unit of the new company. These integrated new products will dramatically decrease the time, complexity and cost of conducting DNA testing and have transformational potential in a broad range of applications.

Data presented at a recent scientific meeting demonstrated that a prototype of the new system produced accurate DNA results in less than an hour, comparable to results obtained with current technology requiring three separate instruments and five to 10 hours. The new technology has the potential to revolutionize DNA testing for the many applications where accuracy, speed and ease-of-use are critical, including, forensics, biodefense, point-of-care diagnostics and food pathogen testing.

"Combining ZyGEM’s unique assays and reagents with MicroLab’s revolutionary microfluidic chips will enable us to greatly expand the utility of DNA detection for both existing and new applications," said Paul Kinnon, chief executive officer of ZyGEM. "Even better, the transformative power of our technology is not a future dream — we have already presented data confirming our ability to achieve accurate results with unprecedented speed and ease-of-use. We intend to rapidly develop and commercialize our new platform with the help of selected partners."

MicroLab Diagnostics has developed advanced microfluidics chip technology that is exclusively licensed to the new company. MicroLab’s miniaturization of the entire DNA testing process within a single closed system has many advantages. It significantly reduces the amount of sample and reagents that are needed while virtually eliminating the chances for handling error or contamination. The ZyGEM/MicroLab system is compact, easy-to-use and cost-effective, making it suitable for use both in the laboratory and out in the field. It can perform multiplexed analyses and can also be configured for specific applications. Portable handheld versions are in development.

Dr. James Landers, co-founder of MicroLab Diagnostics and chief scientific officer of the new company, noted, "Our vision at MicroLab is to develop microfluidic chips capable of transforming DNA testing from a complex and costly process into one that is fast, flexible, affordable and widely accessible. ZyGEM brings us DNA extraction and detection technology that is an ideal fit with our microchips, enabling us to achieve a seamless sample-to-answer solution with broad market applicability. It also brings us commercial expertise and a global network of distributors and partners. We look forward to working with our new colleagues to realize the dramatically improved access to DNA testing made possible by our integrated platform."

Mr. Kinnon added, "Having achieved outstanding results during our prototype testing phase, we expect to initiate field testing of our system later this year, with commercial introduction planned for 2011. We will initially target the forensic and government sectors, where we have already demonstrated convincing proof-of-concept and which represent markets we estimate to exceed $3 billion annually in the U.S. alone."

ZyGEM intends to continue to expand sales of its proprietary assays and kits that use a thermophilic enzyme to extract DNA or RNA from a wide range of sample types using a single, closed-tube system. ZyGEM’s approach significantly reduces the time and cost of DNA and RNA extractions while simplifying workflow and minimizing the risk of contamination and error. The kits are easily adaptable for use with most laboratory automation systems and are sold globally by a network of distributors and partners serving the research, forensic, clinical diagnostics and livestock industries. The company’s New Zealand-based laboratories will continue to develop new applications for ZyGEM’s collection of 2,000 extremophile organisms, which contain rare enzymes of potential utility in a range of applications.

Under the terms of the agreement, the new company will be called ZyGEM and will be headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Kinnon, the current CEO of ZyGEM, will be chief executive officer of the new company. Dr. Landers, ZyGEM’s new CSO, is also professor of chemistry, professor of mechanical engineering and associate professor of pathology at the University of Virginia.

Further terms of the acquisition agreement were not disclosed.

Source: ZyGEM Corp