Garage Technology Ventures’ managing director Bill Reichert recently spent four weeks in New Zealand as entrepreneur in residents at AUT. He travelled around the country, met with startups and produced an Innovation Report on what he found.
Reichert is a renowned member of the technology community in Silicon Valley. As an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, mentor, speaker and advisor, he has been in the industry for decades and understands innovation and what it takes to build a successful tech venture.
He found New Zealand a surprising home of innovation with some clever, talented minds at the helm of some exciting businesses. While there is room for improvement within the innovation space, there were 10 businesses that really impressed him with their products and execution.
One of these is Ubiquitome. Featured in his report here, he says his jaw dropped when he heard the Ubiquitome story of developing “what may be the platform that enables genetic analysis to become a ubiquitous standard diagnostic device.”
Ubiquitome are proud to be included in a list of such prestigious New Zealand companies such as Xero, RocketLab and Soul Machines.
Read Bill Reichert’s full report (split into Part One and Part Two) to gain his full perspective on New Zealand innovation.
Ubiquitome is exhibiting the 2017 BIO International Convention being held in San Diego, California from 20th to 22nd June, 2017. We will be exhibiting in the Digital Health Zone, booth #538.
The BIO International Convention attracts 16,000+ attendees from 5,000+ companies including the leading biotech and pharma companies, top 20 CROs and CMOs, more than 300 academic institutions including the major research labs and government agencies, as well as leading consultants and service companies.
Ubiquitome will be showcasing the Freedom4 at the event. The Freedom4 is a major advance in qPCR systems: the first commercially available handheld, battery powered real-time PCR device. Light and compact, the Freedom4 operates on battery for up to six hours and delivers you remote gold standard qPCR performance in as little as 50 minutes.
We are looking forward to meeting potential partners and attendees.
If you want to see the smallest commercially available qPCR machine in the world, stop by our booth #538 in the Digital Health Zone!
Where: San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California
When: 20th to 22nd June, 2017
Ubiquitome: Booth #538 (in the Digital Health Zone)
If you would like to discuss partnering opportunities or want to see the Freedom4 up close, please visit our booth #538 at BIO 2017. Contact Paul Pickering by email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to meet.
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who supported our Indiegogo campaign. Through the combined efforts of the public and ourselves, we are progressing forward towards developing a test for Zika Virus. Stay tuned for further developments.
Ubiquitome has launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo platform to accelerate the manufacture of an FDA-authorized Zika mobile molecular diagnostic test to be available to U.S. citizens before more than 200,000 Americans visit Brazil for the Rio Olympics.
Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Outbreaks of Zika have been linked with autoimmune disease Guillain-Barré syndrome and an increase in babies born with microcephaly.
Click on the GenomeWeb logo to read their article about the campaign
We've received our first piece of media coverage on our Indiegogo Campaign. Respected biotech GenomeWeb loves our campaign and gave it in-depth coverage, and it has been one of their top rating articles since.
To pre-order your Zika test, click here.
Here is the article, written by Madeleine Johnson:
NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Ubiquitome has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the
development and validation of a molecular test for the Zika virus, with the goal of obtaining
Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration prior to the Olympic
Games in Brazil this summer.
The New Zealand-based firm currently markets the Freedom4, a portable, battery-operated and
iPhone-interfaced qPCR platform that can run four samples at a time.
"We identified an opportunity to tap the crowd and link end-users — people who are worried about
[Zika], thinking about going to the Olympics, or are traveling to tropical locations — with the test,
and unlock a new source of funds to complement investor funds," Paul Pickering, president and
CEO of Ubiquitome, told GenomeWeb in an interview.
"We're excited, and we think that people from the FDA are likely to be excited too, because at the
end of the day they understand as well that there are meaningful costs involved [for EUA] and those
funds have got to come from somewhere," he added.
Ubiquitome began development an Ebola test for potential EUA during that outbreak, but did not
ultimately achieve its goal before the outbreak came under control. "It's not a trivial process,"
Pickering said. Even with the expedited approval mechanism, development, validation, and
regulatory support require quite a lot of resources. The process varies by disease, particularly with
respect to cross-reactivities, but, "At a high level, the FDA wants to know you've got something that
is sensitive and specific," Pickering noted.
And while investors in companies developing infectious disease diagnostics may be excited by EUA,
the returns "are best described as volatile," Pickering said, dependent on duration and extent of an
outbreak. "It was really great the Ebola outbreak was gotten under control, but I doubt many
companies made much money out of [EUA] to return to investors," he said.
Crowdfunding, meanwhile, is a "huge, new pool of financing for startup companies, in a broad and diverse range of areas," Pickering said.
Crowdfunding is a newer strategy in the medical device space. To help commercialize a small
benchtop thermal cycler called miniPCR, Amplyus recently raised about $66,000 on Kickstarter,
more than three time its original goal. Chai Biotechnologies sought $50,000 from crowdfunding for
its Open qPCR system, and raised just over $202,000.
Pickering said there have been a few firms who have used crowdfunding for pre-FDA programs,
promising to deliver an innovation, sometimes several years in the future, but the Ubiquitome
campaign may be the first molecular diagnostic to attempt this.
A lab-developed test might be another mechanism to commercialize a Zika assay, but, "The FDA is
pretty firm that companies work through the [EUA] process," Pickering said, noting that a test
offered as an LDT by a hospital in Houston but based on a CE-marked test kit merited an untitled
letter from the agency earlier this month, although it may very well have met the CLIA standards for
the state of Texas.
Besides being a good corporate citizen and helping save lives, a handful of companies may
ultimately commercialize tests after receiving EUA, as happened during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009-
2010. Validation studies for EUA might also be used for future applications, and investors and
partners may look favorably on achieving this type of authorization.
"They're seeing that the FDA is engaged, and if one makes it all the way through that's a checkmark
of sorts — it's not a 510(k) or a [pre-market approval], but it is a way to kind of get some runs on the
board," Pickering said. The process also helps companies, particularly those in early stages, to
develop relationships with the FDA. Furthermore, Pickering said the agency dedicates significant
resources to expediting approval through the EUA process.
The Ubiquitome Zika assay will need to be tested for cross-reactivity to pathogens like dengue,
malaria, and chikungunya. "It's quite a lot of lab work, and, it's probably not appreciated, but it's
quite a significant validation process." The firm has completed the in vitro work on the test but has
not begun the validation stage yet.
The test will be developed for the Freedom4 platform, but contributors who donate $25 to the
crowdfunding campaign will get on a list for future testing. The test would be made available
through a centralized laboratory, should it become authorized, Pickering said.
Ubiquitome's Zika test will use saliva, and thus contributors would ship samples to the centralized
lab, although this may require a physician prescription depending on the state.
Making the test available on a mobile molecular basis is a less well-worn path, however, and how
that will look in the future will be part of the firm's discussions with FDA.
Ubiquitome expects that with full funding it can have a test available in August, in time for the
Olympic Games in Brazil.
However, "We want to be very clear, and we've got this caveat on the [fundraising site] as well, that
we don't offer any guarantees that it will be available and it is subject to FDA authorization."
Uptake of portable molecular
Ubiquitome has seen the development of a number of applications for the Freedom4 since its
launch, in areas including conservation biology, forensics, food and environmental testing, animal
health, and clinical applications, according to its website.
The platform is a somewhat disruptive technology, however. Particularly for those that want to take
advantage of the mobile molecular testing capability, some customers find up-front sample
preparation technology "hasn't caught up [and] it isn't as mobile as the Freedom4," Pickering said.
Direct amplification — using robust enzyme technology and methods to manage inhibitors — may
be a way to address this, and that is what the firm is hoping to deploy with its Zika saliva test,
Pickering said, adding that developments in mobile sample prep are being catalyzed by mobile PCR
becoming more of a reality.
The pricing of the Freedom4 platform remains around $25,000, but the company has also been
doing some work with manufacturing partners to bring the cost down. "To make it ubiquitous, we
also need to make it affordable," said Pickering.
The firm is continuing collaborations with Integrated DNA Technologies and food safety firm
AssureQuality. In addition, Ubiquitome continues to get "a lot of interest, as we expected when we
launched the Freedom4, from companies that have test content," Pickering said.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command announced its intent to enter into an Agreement (Section 815 Other Transaction (OT)) with the National Chemical and Biological Defence Consortium (NCBDC).
The NCBDC is an industry consortium that is forming, of which Ubiquitome is a member, specifically in response to the agreement. It is a collaborative group of professionals who can bring their knowledge and expertise together to answer problems that the government poses (specific to chemical and biological).
The consortium encompasses the expertise, knowledge, technologies and innovation that the government requires in terms of the technological advancements needed to enhance the mission effectiveness of military personnel.
As a member of the consortium, Ubiquitome is excited about the opportunities that this will present. For Ubiquitome, this opens doors to provide technology and expertise to the U.S. Army on some of the biggest chemical and biological defence projects in the world.
To be able to have Ubiquitome’s technology used by one of the largest military groups in the world would boost interest and provide further opportunities for development of current technologies.
It also exposes Ubiquitome to the other members of the consortium, some of the best and brightest in chemical and biological defence. This provides opportunities for information sharing and collaborations as well as opening up themselves to a wider target market.
The Special Notice released by the army cites: “Only one such consortium, the National Chemical and Biological Defence Consortium, encompasses the expertise, knowledge, technologies, and innovation to meet the program objectives and goals of the coordinated research and development program designed to support the Department of Defence’s medical, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic requirements as related to enhancing the mission effectiveness of military personnel. The consortium is comprised of a well-balanced and uniquely qualified mixture of traditional and non-traditional contractors, small and large business, for-profit and not-for-profit entities, and academic organizations.”
For more information on the consortium, visit their website here or view the full announcement can be viewed here.