Medicine Man

Start-up thrives despite hard times in biotechnology

Biotechnology has taken a hit in recent years as investors have become reluctant to provide funding due to disappointing financial returns.

Despite this, Christopher P. Adams, 41, has developed patented medical technology that can help save millions of lives. “Hybriscan technology” is a DNA probe that detects infectious organisms in blood.

Adams and a team of scientists began developing the technology when he launched Mosaic Technologies Inc., a biotechnology firm, in 1994. Using the invention, they created a test to quickly detect bacteria in blood platelets and increase the safety of platelet transfusions.

“The current test for bacteria contaminated platelets takes two days to perform, but there’s only a five-day shelf life for platelets,” explains Adams, chairman of the $1 million Boston-based firm. “By using our bacterial detection test, it takes less than 30 minutes to determine if blood samples are tainted, so hospitals are able to treat transfusion patients much quicker and with less risk.”

Although Adams holds a B.A. in psychology, it would seem as though medicine has always been in his blood. He worked several years as a research assistant in the cancer research department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in molecular biology research.

By 1994 Adams was ready to flex his entrepreneurial muscle, so he started Mosaic and secured a patent to protect his technology, which took two years and over $5,000.

During this time, Adams approached the American Red Cross about using Hybriscan for virus screening, but they had an unmet need for bacterial testing of blood. He partnered with them to use the technology to develop a diagnostic product for testing infectious diseases in the blood bank market.

Adams needed $25 million to put his diagnostic product on the market. Knowing there was little chance he could obtain a bank loan, he borrowed $20,000 from friends and later secured a $150,000 equity investment from a local business associate. Still, this wasn’t enough to cover the cost of research, development and manufacturing.

Through an angel network, venture capital groups and corporate partnerships, Adams raised $10 million last year and anticipates collecting another $10-$20 million this year.
The platelet-testing product is expected to hit the market in the year 2000, when Adams projects that his 20-employee company will earn $7 million in revenues with a potential of up to $100 million.

Mosaic Technologies Inc., 1106 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215; 617-232-7636; www.mostek.com

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