Researchers led by Tony Jun Huang at Penn State University have honed techniques for detecting, counting and analyzing cells and pieces of DNA. This is a major development for scientists and doctors looking for a way to detect cancer or HIV cells in a small sample.
In 2012, Huang and his wife, Lin Wang, formed Ascent Bio-Nano in order to commercialize the research being done in his lab. More specifically, the company has developed a chip that can generate three-dimensional images of cells. This chip points toward a portable device that can be used to examine samples for HIV, cancer and other cells. This ability has applications in medicine and laboratory research. Wang says Ascent Bio-Nano's device would be smaller, cheaper and more effective than similar products that are already on the market.
Wang and Huang are graduates of the Ben Franklin TechCelerator program in State College and credit the business-development program with their success so far. Wang, Ascent Bio-Nano's CEO, says she and her husband wanted to see products developed in Huang's lab put on the market. But it's hard to license technology that is still in the research phase.
“We always wanted to wait for the big companies to make the move,” Wang says. “This company is really to bridge the gap.”
Ascent Bio-Nano is in the process of developing a prototype for its chip. It expects to focus on that for the rest of 2012, with assistance from Penn State students.