Startup using funds to help with local battle against COVID
HOUGHTON — StabiLux Biosciences is one of two Houghton-based, high-tech companies that recently received direct investments, or loans, from the state’s Tech Startup Stabilization Fund to assist them during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Tech Startup Stabilization Fund has been administered by ID Ventures in Detroit to support early-stage tech companies in Michigan with fewer than 50 employees, and a demonstrated need for support due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Martin Dober, senior vice president at Invest Detroit, and managing director of the ID Ventures team, explained that funds to the companies are not grants, but are investments in the companies.
“So, we are looking for companies that survive this and thrive afterward,” Dober said. “We’re looking for those funds to be paid back in some way.”
The Tech Startup Stabilization Fund prioritized financial support for early-stage companies headquartered in Michigan that have demonstrated a strong pre-COVID-19 customer value proposition, comprised a team with proven execution capability, and were on a that for an additional round of funding before the pandemic began. One such company is StabilLux.
“StabiLux has,” said Fred Molnar, vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) Entrepreneurship & Innovation initiative, “I’ll just call it a re-agent, basically a liquid form a product that can be used in various aspects in diagnostics or basic research, without going into too much detail,”
StabiLux Biosciences is a Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) spinoff company that has developed proprietary, high-brightness dyes that target biomedical applications, particularly for use in multicolor flow cytometry.
These dyes (compounds) find applications in flow cytometry, a laser-induced fluorescence technique that can analyze thousands of cells per second. This tecnique is important for clinical diagnosis and research in the areas of immunophenotyping (detection of tumor marker, HIV, etc.) as well as the detection of chromose content, a parameter of measuring cancer aggressiveness. The technique is also important for STEM cell application, biosynthesis — the detection of algae strains for biofuel production — and drug development (effects of a drug on cellular signaling, viability, etc), stated the National Science Foundation in an earlier release.
The StabiLux compounds are high-brightness dyes offer a drop-in platform technology, allowing researchers to detect what was previously undetectable, while enabling existing equipment to be used to its fullest potential, without the need for additional parts or new software, the website states.
Multicolor flow cytometry is a rapidly evolving technology, which uses multiple fluorescent markers to identify and characterize cellular subpopulations of interest. The markers allow for rapid analysis on tens of thousands of cells per second, with the possibility of isolating pure, viable populations-by-cell-sorting for further experimentation.
The colors of traditional dyes overlap, and their low brightness causes markers to be indistinguishable from others, when they blend into each other, states the website, NovoLux. This is a challenging problem especially in the autofluorescence region to distinguish real signal from autofluorescence. It’s like trying to see a faint light next to a bright one. This uncontrolled brightness contributes to the failure of traditional dyes, even with time-consuming signal analysis. NovoLux dyes can be be balanced with brightness control, allowing both signal peaks to be resolved. Their dye technologies make this possible.
Dober said over ID Ventures received more than 214 applications for funding through the program when it was launched.
The goal of the fund, Molnar added, is, ” to hopefully to get the tech startup companies some run way, some breathing room, however you want to look at it, to try to get through this pandemic and try to get through on the other side, still functioning — maybe as strong, or maybe not as strong, maybe even stronger, depending on the aspects of it.”