NeXGen Arrays – Sunmin Ahn, ENG ’12
Microarrays are thousands of tiny little spots on a glass slide that allow researchers to conduct experiments on thousands of samples at once. The process has accelerated research and in the ten years since the human genome has been sequenced, the devices have been instrumental in gathering a wealth of new information and insight on gene expression analysis, disease diagnosis, infectious agents screening. But despite their ability to facilitate these monumental discoveries, protein microarrays have seen little advancements in design and structure over the years—an area that ITEC Finalist NexXGen Arrays seeks to improve.
“One of the biggest hurdles in the advancement of protein microrarrays integrated into the clinical settings as molecular diagnostics is the poor quality control, and the variability of the devices that do not meet the standards of the FDA,” says Sunmin Ahn (ENG ’12). “We have developed a product that will give researchers the ability to give more control of assessing quality and reduce the variability. Our design permits fabrication at a fraction of the cost of readers currently on the market without compromising on performance.”
The idea of NeXGen Arrays originated in September when Sunmin met with some of her PhD classmates. The entire team consists of George Daaboul, ENG ’13, Alex Reddington, ENG ’13, Margo Monroe, ENG ’13, Philipp Spuhler, PhD, ENG ’12, David Freedman, PhD, ENG ’10 and Carlos Lopez, PhD, ENG ’07. They formed NeXGen Arrays in an effort to create products that would facilitate microarray research across laboratories and translate the protein microarrays into the clinical setting. The first in their scheduled line of products are new NeXGen slides for microarrays.
“These slides will offer a 16-fold enhancement of fluorescence intensity over traditional glass slides in standard fluorescence scanners. This enhancement is achieved through a reflective surface, and the superior surface chemistry is provided by a proprietary polymer that has been obtained through a relationship with a commercial polymer manufacturer,” adds team member Carlos Lopez. “When probing DNA or protein, it is critical to maintain quality, and we believe these slides will add significant value to the microarray industry.”
The ITEC Competition is the first business competition for ‘NeXGen Arrays’ and the team has felt an immediate impact on the company’s development.
“We are a group of engineers, and it has been great to talk to business people about our start-up,” adds Sunmin. “We lack the expertise in being able to analyze markets, understand revenue models and things of that nature. That is why we are looking for ITEC and the resources it provides for guidance.”
“This will be the first business plan we have written. We are looking to understand how it is done and also how we can communicate it better to possible investors so that we can continue to move the business forward,” adds Carlos.
With a patent on the product pending, the team is well positioned to immerse themselves into the company full-time. In addition to ITEC, they are in the process of applying for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and MassChallenge.