Rapid COVID-19 test maker Anavasi Diagnostics lands funding from National Institutes of Health

Anavasi’s AscencioDx COVID-19 test system. (Anavasi Photo)

The gist: Woodinville, Wash.-based startup Anavasi Diagnostics will advance the commercialization of its rapid COVID-19 test with $14.9 million in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the company announced Tuesday. The startup also has raised $6 million from individual investors.

The product: According to the company, its AscencioDx COVID-19 test system yields results equivalent to gold-standard PCR tests, and more cheaply and rapidly — within 30 minutes. The system employs a re-usable detector good for more than 3,000 single-use tests. “It’s a one and done process that’s like having a PCR lab in the palm of your hand,” said CEO Nelson Patterson, a veteran of several medical device companies, in a statement. The test is currently in clinical trials.

The tech: PCR tests require repeated cycles of heating and cooling, generally requiring lab processing. Anavasi’s COVID-19 test instead uses a proprietary version of loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), a method to detect viral RNA. LAMP operates at a single threshold temperature, yielding rapid results. The tech can also be adapted to tests for other viruses and bacteria.

The founders: The three founders bring together scientific, software and product development expertise. Chief scientific officer Barry Lutz is an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington. The company’s chief of innovation and technology Robert Atkinson previously worked for 20 years as a software architect at Microsoft and is now a graduate student in Lutz’s lab. Chief engineer Minh Duong is a co-founder of Simplexity, a product development company. The trio founded Anavasi in August last year.

The funding: The new NIH funding comes from the agency’s rapid acceleration of diagnostics initiative, which is backing COVID-19 testing technologies and startups. The cash builds on $350,000 in previous NIH funding, which enabled the company to pivot last year from HIV to COVID-19 testing. Anavasi also raised $1.6 million last October and $1 million this January from friends, family and founders. The new $6 million promissory convertible note round closed in October, according to a spokesperson.

The future: Anavasi expects to file for emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “in the near future.” The initial submission will be for point-of-care use by a licensed medical professional, but the company will also explore later approval for at-home use. The 45-employee startup aims to approximately double its headcount in the next four months.

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