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ABQ biotech firm hires veteran industry executive

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Sandia Biotech Inc. has hired veteran industry executive Steven Miller to help take medical diagnostics technology licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico to market.

The Albuquerque startup has spent more than a decade developing laboratory kits based on novel LANL and UNM compounds that allow medical researchers to rapidly detect targeted diseases for analysis and drug development. It already sells the kits to research laboratories and universities, but it’s now ready to aggressively expand into commercial markets, said Sandia Biotech President Tony Pino.

“It takes time, money and trials to turn these technologies into usable tools,” Pino told the Journal. “We’ve been working on it for years, and we’re now ready to hit the commercial markets. That’s why we hired Dr. Miller, to take us forward.”

Miller has spent 30 years in the biotechnology industry. He earned a Ph.D. in cell and microbiology from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and worked for 10 years at Stanford Research Institute International’s pharmaceutical discovery division. Since 2000, he’s helped nearly a dozen companies in California and New Mexico to commercialize new medical technologies.

“I specialize in taking emerging biomedical innovation into the marketplace,” he said. “I think Sandia Biotech is poised for rapid growth based on the technology foundations it’s already built.”

The company has three market-ready technologies:

n An engineered green fluorescent protein it licensed from LANL in 2009 that’s used as a biosensor to illuminate proteins in cells with different colors for easy detection and analysis.

n A compound it licensed from UNM in 2012 that binds with G-Protein Estrogen Receptors, or GPERS, which are frequently associated with a variety of cancers. The compound works as both an agonist and antagonist, turning things on or off in cells to allow researchers to analyze disease and test potential therapeutics.

n A fluorescent antibody compound it licensed from UNM in 2015 that contains built-in fluorescence with different colors to detect diseases like cancer and bacterial or viral infections.

The fluorescent antibodies, dubbed FluorAbodies, are synthetically made, eliminating the need for animal proteins used in other commercially available compounds. That makes them easier and cheaper to fabricate.

“Our FluorAbodies are made in a laboratory, so their much more stable and less expensive to produce,” Pino said. “And we can scale up to produce them in volume at lower cost.”

All Sandia Biotech’s laboratory kits, or assays, are plug-and-play.

“They’re easily read with all standard fluorescent equipment already used in labs,” Miller said.

The company has raised about $3 million in angel funding. It received a $100,000 grant this year from UNM’s Co-investment Fund, which supports startups that market university technologies. It currently employs four people at the WEEST Enterprise Center Downtown.

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