Start-up Company Based on Georgia Tech Optical Instrumentation Innovation Wins $600,000 Round of Financing
The investment is expected to fund the company's operation until it can produce its first product for market testing.
Stheno Corporation received the financing from Boston's New England Partners, Healthcare Capital Partners in Atlanta, and Acorn LLC of Cabin John, MD. The investment is the first in Atlanta for New England Partners and Healthcare Capital Partners.
The company's non-contact optical chemical detection technology can quickly distinguish between different geometries of the same molecule. Being able to rapidly determine the proportion of each molecular geometry in a liquid sample is important to the pharmaceutical industry because different versions of the same compound can have different effects.
One well-known example is Seldane, which was a prescription medication for allergies. Unfortunately, Seldane exists in two different molecular geometries - one that holds the therapeutic properties and one that in some patients causes ventricular arrhythmia, a potentially fatal heart condition. Presence of the undesired molecular geometry caused the withdrawal of Seldane from the market in 1998.
Because of these differences - known technically as chirality - the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires pharmaceutical companies to fully characterize new drug candidates, including their optical chirality. But existing techniques for determining chirality are time-consuming and limited in both sensitivity and accuracy.
"Because these molecules are the same except for the different geometries, it's very difficult to tell them apart," explained William Edens, CEO and co-founder of Stheno. "We have licensed from Georgia Tech a technology that allows us to very sensitively distinguish between the two geometries in real-time. Our technology will save time for pharmaceutical companies, reduce costs and help them meet FDA requirements."
Beyond the pharmaceutical industry, the technology may also have application to the fine chemical, process chemical, fragrance and food industries.
Known as Magneto-Optical Enantiomeric Detection (MOPED), the system will be integrated with high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) equipment, which is widely used - with an estimated 300,000 units in operation worldwide. Stheno is working with a major pharmaceutical company on an "early access" program expected to make the new system available for testing by late 2004 or early 2005.