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GenTel claims $900,000 in federal grants this year for biochip research

Stained bacteria cells adhering to spots on a plastic slide. Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology.
MADISON, Wis. – Five small business innovation research (SBIR) grants totaling more than $900,000 have been awarded to GenTel BioSurfaces, Inc. this year by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, company officials announced Tuesday.

“This is a cash infusion to do further product development focused on biochip development instead of using investors’ dollars, which we’d rather use for sales and marketing activities,” said Alex Vodenlich, president of GenTel “It’s a way to leverage grant funding to accelerate the product pipeline.”

GenTel, a private spin-off from the Universty of Wisconsin, develops and manufactures biochips composed of many tiny drops of chemicals atop surfaces no larger than a fingernail. These chips can be used to perform a large number of tests without requiring a large number of slides. They find applications in life sciences, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics research.

Among the technologies for which funds were awarded is the development of a test kit that will be used to aid in the rapid diagnosis and subsequent treatment of allergy sufferers.

“[The technology] is an alternative, where you can test for potentially hundreds of allergies and do that quickly and efficiently on a biochip,” Vodenlich said.
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GenTel's biochip-based allergy diagnostic is one of five technologies selected for funding by the SBIR program. Other GenTel projects funded under this program in 2004 include new technologies for faster and more efficient protein research, new methods for the study of gene regulation and simplified analysis tools for life science research.

SBIR grants are frequently peer-reviewed and are intended to prove the technological feasibility and credibility of applicant proposals. Phase I grants focus on early stage product development, whereas phase II awards are oriented toward product marketing and commercialization.

“The competition is pretty tough, and as federal budgets get tighter and tighter it’s going to become even more competitive,” Vodenlich said. He added that receiving the grants was “a big boost for us.”

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