VAI Commercializes Research Device

    GRAND RAPIDS — A new research device invented by a scientist at the Van Andel Research Institute went on the market this month and is being sold exclusively under a licensing agreement with The Gel Co. of San Francisco.

    Brian Haab, Ph.D., head of VARI’s Laboratory of Cancer Immunodiagnostics, invented the SlideImprinter, a device that partitions laboratory slides and provides researchers with an innovative way to test many samples at once. The more samples that can be tested at one time, the faster the research can progress. Haab has been using the prototype of his invention for more than three years. He said other commercially available options didn’t really work well. 

    “We didn’t originally intend to sell it, but when we saw how well it worked, we realized this product had commercial potential,” Haab said.

    Haab invented the slide partitioning device with design help from David Kruithoff, an engineer now in the employ of Lifeport Inc. of Seattle. VARI has applied for a patent on SlideImprinter, and on March 1 licensed The Gel Co. to develop the device. Gel CEO Greg Richardson said his company improved and made upgrades to Haab’s original prototype. Richardson said the press release issued last week was the first notice of the new product.

    Haab has told colleagues at various scientific seminars about SlideImprinter and said there appears to be “strong interest” in it within the research community. Richardson said his company has been in the business of sectioning slides for about four years and thinks SlideImprinter has potential.

    The SlideImprinter measures 6-by-6-by-10 inches and imprints thin wax lines onto the surface of a slide to create partitions that segregate the slide into several “wells.” The device is available online or by phone in standard cartridges of 12, 16, 48 or 192 arrays for $2,975. A customized SlideImprinter can be had for $3,475. Richardson said there are a lot of research labs that design their own methods for sectioning slides, which is why they may prefer a custom SlideImprinter. Some people may want to work only with one or two slides at a time, or some may want unique patterns for some sort of visualization through a microscope, he explained.

    “A lot of people forge their own path, so what we can do for people who want to stick to their own methodology is design and create a stamp or cartridge which matches their current profile,” he noted. 

    Jerry Callahan, VARI director of business development, said every deal the institute does is different, depending on whether it’s technology, a drug or a patent, but the same general criteria applies to all.

    The Gel Co. has a non-exclusive license to sell SlideImprinter, and paid an upfront cost for the rights; a percentage of sales goes back as a royalty to the institute, Callahan explained. The VAI shares the percentage of sales it receives in three ways: The largest percentage of the royalties goes to the inventor of the technology at the institute as a recognition and reward for creating a technology that has commercial value. Another percentage of the royalties goes to the inventor’s laboratory, so it’s a secondary reward, Callahan said. The remaining portion goes to the VAI’s general fund to help subsidize other research. Since Gel has a non-exclusive license to sell the device, there are additional licensing opportunities for the product.

    VARI commercialized a medical software application called XenoBase in October of 2005 that’s being marketed by XB Transmed Solutions under an exclusive licensing agreement with the VAI. Numerous companies have the license to use XenoBase, but only XB Transmed Solutions can sell it.

    Xenobase, the brainchild of VARI scientific investigators Craig Webb, Ph.D., and Jeremy Miller, Ph.D., is designed to synthesize medical research findings more quickly. At the time, it was said to be the first biologic software application with the ability to integrate data from a number of sources at once, including data from clinical trials, animal models, patient medical histories, and individual profiles of genes, chromosomes and proteins. Callahan said that more than $1 million has been collected to date from third parties for service and/or licensing of XenoBase software.     

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