T2 Biosystems Diagnostic Holds Its Own In Comparison Against Hospital Tool

T2 Biosystems is putting some punch in a very small package. The company has gotten some early validation for its 8-pound prototype medical diagnostics machine, through a paper published last week in Nature Medicine, which says the T2 instrument performed on par with hefty hospital-based diagnostic tools that are the size of a chest of drawers.

As Rebecca wrote about earlier this year, the privately held Cambridge, MA-based company has a serious pedigree, with co-founders like MIT biotech pioneer Robert Langer and Massachusetts General Hospital radiologist Ralph Weissleder, among others, and financial backing from Flagship Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners, and Flybridge Capital Partners.

Weissleder’s lab ran experiments, as described in the Nature Medicine article, to see just how good the smaller machine really is. The experiment found that the T2 system can distinguish between simulated blood samples from healthy people, or those with cancer or diabetes. It was even sensitive enough to spot just 10 cells of bacteria in a sample. That stacked up “essentially the same” as bigger, more costly machines, says CEO John McDonough.

T2 built an initial prototype about two months ago that’s about the size of an open laptop computer, with a touchscreen interface and a port to slide samples in, says McDonough. The components tested in Weissleder’s experiment are even smaller, and the company plans to incorporate them into a handheld, next-generation prototype, he says. From there, T2 hopes to go from prototype to beta version by next summer, then have a commercial instrument that can win FDA approval in the first half of 2010, McDonough says.

If he’s right, then it won’t be too many years before most emergency rooms and ambulances have a smaller, faster, cheaper new tool to tell what’s ailing you.

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