UK’s Enigma Diagnostics to Establish U.S. Headquarters in San Diego

Xconomy San Diego — 

Enigma Diagnostics, a UK-based medical diagnostics startup, plans to close its current U.S. office in San Francisco and open a new office in San Diego as its U.S. headquarters, according to chairman and CEO John McKinley.

McKinley outlined Enigma’s development of rapid molecular diagnostic technology in a presentation yesterday at the annual investor conference organized by Biocom, the San Diego life sciences industry group. The company has developed a desktop-size instrument based on advances in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology, which McKinley says can identify certain pathogens in less than 45 minutes. Amid concerns over the H1N1 swine flu outbreak and other infectious disease, McKinley says, “There currently is nothing in the market like our pending technology.”

Enigma expects to make an official announcement about its new San Diego office next month, McKinley says, and he estimates the company will have 30 employees here by mid-2010. He tells me he decided to establish an American beachhead for Enigma Diagnostics in San Diego because, “It’s a diagnostics center for the U.S. The pool of labor is certainly here.”

Among the factors that McKinley cited is the presence of Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE), the Carlsbad, CA, company that was formed in last year’s merger of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems, as well as Quidel (NASDAQ: QDEL), and Stratagene, a San Diego business that is now part of Santa Clara, CA-based Agilent Technologies.

Enigma ML device

Enigma ML device

McKinley says Enigma, a venture-backed company founded in 2004, first developed a rugged military version of its diagnostic machine for field detection of biological agents under funding from the UK’s Defence Science Technology Laboratory. The company’s investors include the UK’s Porton Capital Group, GlaxoSmithKline, and the UK Government Science Technology Laboratory.

The company intends to first win approval for its automated Enigma ML “mini laboratory” in Europe by next September. Following that, McKinley says Enigma intends to ask the FDA to waive requirements under CLIA, or Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, which would enable the device to be operated in U.S. hospitals, clinics, and other point-of-care facilities.