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Local tech startup snares $5M investment

Travis Woods, left, and Steven Graves use a cytometer at BennuBio in 2018. The startup has garnered $5 million in private equity from local and international investors. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

BennuBio Inc. has won $5 million in private equity from local and international investors to accelerate marketing of super-fast cell-screening and analysis technology developed originally at the University of New Mexico.

Co-Win Ventures, which focuses on early-stage investments in technology and health care companies in the U.S. and China, led the round as a new investor in BennuBio. Local investors Cottonwood Technology Fund, Tramway Venture Partners and Sun Mountain Capital all contributed to the new funding. Those firms had previously pumped $2 million into the company, which operates out of the WESST Enterprise Center Downtown.

Co-Win’s participation could substantially boost BennuBio’s marketing success, since that firm has extensive experience in the cytometer, or cell meter, industry, said BennuBio President and CEO Steven Graves, a UNM chemical and engineering professor who developed the startup’s technology.

“Co-Win has invested heavily in this space,” Graves said. “They’ve backed another flow cytometer company, for example, that built technology to add colors to the cell-screening process to better identify things.”

Flow-through cytometers are used to rapidly analyze millions, and often billions, of cells for medical diagnostics and drug discovery. But today’s cytometers can process only about 10,000 cells per second because tissue samples are pushed through cytometers one at a time. In addition, when screening complex conglomerates of cells, the process slows down to 100 cells per second.

BennuBio’s technology processes 10 tissue samples through a cytometer simultaneously, allowing researchers to screen up to 100,000 cells per second for simple tissue samples. For the more complex conglomerates, it can screen up to 10,000 cells per second, or 100 times more than today’s technology, Graves said.

Unlike most cytometers, which use fluids to flow single tissue samples through the machine, BennuBio uses sound waves to separate samples into multiple channels for parallel processing.

“We believe BennuBio’s innovative cell and particle analysis platform will play an important role in high-growth research markets throughout the life sciences and potential clinical applications,” said Co-Win Ventures Managing Partner Xin Huang in a statement. “BennuBio has developed innovative patented technologies and an exciting new flow cytometer, and with this new funding is now positioned to accelerate their growth.”

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