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sample preparation steps, which incorporate consumable chemicals at $10 to $50 per test, to help the optical detector separate out the signal from the noise in the sample. It can take a couple hours to get a result in the lab. In a hospital environment, that often means a patient has already come and gone before the doctor can deliver the result of a lab test, McDonough says.
The T2 technology is different in that it doesn’t use optical detection at all. Instead, it uses magnetic resonance, which essentially produces a reading based on how a sound wave reflects through a liquid sample of water, blood, urine, whatever. T2 has nanoparticle probes that can bind, with, say, a virus in contaminated water, which creates a new binding characteristic the machine can read, McDonough says.
The company has an alpha prototype at the moment, which I take to mean that it still needs work before it’s ready for commercial prime time. When I last spoke to McDonough in July 2008, the machine only had capability to detect proteins and small molecules. But now it has been beefed up to also spot DNA. One key early test will be in assessing the strength of the immune system in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, McDonough says. Assuming everything goes well, the T2 machine could be on the market in 2012, he says.
But even before that day comes—if it ever does—T2 hopes to generate some revenue by licensing its technology to third parties, like biotech, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic companies, McDonough says. He didn’t name names, but he says “there’s tremendous interest out there.” If some of that interest translates into revenue-generating partnerships, it’s possible that T2 won’t have to raise venture capital again, he says. Possible, but he didn’t want to promise that either.
“We are excited about our partnering opportunities,” McDonough says. “We have a unique offering.”
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