Swift Biosciences Strikes Licensing Deal with Vela Diagnostics

Ann Arbor, MI-based Swift Biosciences announced this week that it has signed a licensing deal with Vela Operations, the Singapore-based parent company of Vela Diagnostics.

The agreement gives Vela non-exclusive rights to incorporate Swift’s myT Primer technology into its cancer detection tests. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founder and CEO David Olson says Vela is interested in Swift’s technology because it enables researchers to do polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, a DNA amplification process used in clinical diagnostics, with fewer errors.

“Vela was one of those companies that found that our product worked well and asked us about a limited license,” Olson explains. “You know the saying, ‘I liked the product so much I bought the company’? They liked the product so much they bought the license to use it.”

Since raising a $3 million Series A round in 2010 with investment from Houston-based DFJ Mercury and undisclosed Michigan-based investors, Swift Biosciences launched the myT Primer technology line for use in research and study, which is how Vela became familiar with it.

Olson says the myT Primer products are “just the tip of the iceberg,” and that the company plans to release a suite of new products related to next-generation sequencing in 2013. “The time of the $1,000 genome is upon is,” Olson says. “Our process makes it faster, easier, more sensitive, and more precise.”

Swift Biosciences, which launched in early 2010, has 11 employees and was founded by Olson and Vladamir Makarov, who met at an entrepreneurial event hosted by Ann Arbor SPARK. Olson is a serial entrepreneur; he’s been involved in starting five companies over the course of his career, including San Francisco’s Genteric.

He also served as chief scientific officer for Accuri Cytometers, a Michigan med tech startup that was bought by Beckton Dickinson for a reported $205 million. Olson’s ultimate goal for Swift Biosciences is to have its suite of technology and products acquired by a “global company.”

Olson is excited about what the future of personalized medicine holds and thinks Ann Arbor is the perfect spot to continue to develop diagnostic technology. Although Swift Biosciences is always hiring if spectacular talent comes along, Olson says a more sweeping hiring push is planned for 2014 as both the company and the field of personalized medicine ramp up.

“In a sense, we’ve always had personalized medicine ,” he adds. “What we’re adding now is molecular diagnostics. In some cases, it makes a dramatic difference and provides tools to the biopharmaceutical industry that enable new technology for all medicine.”

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