Ann Arbor company turns to tiny bubbles to drive growth

With $ 17.5 million in new venture capital largesse, Ann Arbor-based bioscience firm Akadeum Life Sciences Inc. is planning a vast commercial expansion of tiny bubble-based technology.

According to Akadeum founder and CEO Brandon McNaughton, the Series B funding round, announced last week, positions the company to deploy its “microbubble” technology in new ways.

“We’ve spent several years building the technology – and really building it in a way that shows how unique and high performing our core technology is,” McNaughton told Crain’s in an interview last week. “But now… what we’re doing is really going out there and expanding commercially. We’ve had commercial activity before, but what this cycle is going to do is give us the resources to develop and expand our technology. also.”

Founded in 2014, the idea is to use microbubbles to better help researchers capture various biological or chemical samples.

It’s not hard to figure out: Bubbles can capture some sort of cell or chemical and float it on top of a complex solution, the company says, making it easier to separate key elements.

Akadeum’s technology microbubbles are made of silica – essentially hollow microscopic glass beads – and the company then uses proprietary surface treatments to manufacture them at Akadeum’s facility in Ann Arbor, McNaughton said.

This type of separation is often used to create drugs or to diagnose illnesses. It is “a powerful tool, which is widely used in many fields of biological and biomedical research and in clinical therapy”, one reads one. 2012 report of the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The process has applications in several areas of medicine, from cancer diagnostics to DNA testing, McNaughton said, noting that the company is now positioned to be part of it.

“We’re one step upstream from a lot of other tasks or processing done, (and) you have to first separate what you want to go downstream to work with,” McNaughton said. “What we have developed is a way to do this separation that solves a lot of problems that exist in the industry … things like the ability to handle larger volumes, the ability to have a higher throughput, higher performance. “

Before founding Akadeum, McNaughton said he worked on cell separation in academic and professional settings, but ran into “technical problems” with existing separation methods, namely magnetic separation. . This led to the development of the microbubble solution and the establishment of the company.

This latest round of funding for Akadeum was led by Arboretum Ventures, the Ann Arbor-based healthcare venture capital firm, and benefited from the participation of several other funds, including Beringea, based in Farmington Hills.

Akadeum two years ago announced a partnership with Agilent Technologies Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., To develop better methods of isolating target molecules for detection in several test areas. This partnership continues, McNaughton said. He added that the company has other partnerships with other such companies that it cannot discuss publicly.

In addition, the new capital will allow the company to deploy a proprietary automation instrument that will be sold to those who perform tests requiring cell separation, McNaughton said.

The company currently derives revenue from its early business ventures, but McNaughton declined to give current or projected revenue for the company. He said Akadeum now has 14 employees and expects to double that number within two years.

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