Una Ryan Searching for Riches to Deliver Inexpensive Diagnostics to the Poor

3/5/10

This week I spoke with veteran biotech executive Una Ryan at her office about her strategy for raising money to advance the cause at the Harvard spinout Diagnostics For All. So it was no surprise to spot her just a few hours later at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, networking with accomplished academics and powerful industry types.

Ryan, who began work as CEO of the nonprofit diagnostics firm in early January, needs to network to execute her plan to begin providing its paper-based diagnostic tests to patients in poor countries by the end of this year, because it’s going to require a lotmore money than the two-year-old firm has in the bank today. The good news is that the firm’s co-founder, renowned chemist George Whitesides, along with his collaborators, have finished much of the engineering required to manufacture the nonprofit’s postage stamp-sized devices cheaply and easily. (The nonprofit also gained early acclaim for being a 2008 winner in the prestigious MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.)

Despite the low cost of the technology, it’s going to cost between $2 million and $5 million to begin providing the firm’s diagnostics to the developing world, in part because its products will need additional testing and operational support. It’s an urgent matter, too, since the firm’s tests could catch signs of lethal liver damage in hundreds of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in poor countries whose medications can have undiagnosed side effects. There are also opportunities to expand use of the technology for patients with diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and diabetes.

Therefore, Ryan is leading a multi-pronged effort to raise money at the firm; there is a link on its website where people can make donations online. “It worked for … Next Page »

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