Bioinformatics hits Mukilteo

  • KATHY DAY / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, October 26, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

By KATHY DAY

Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — Harbor Pointe Tech Center will be home to a new kind of tenant with the arrival of CombiMatrix sometime in the next month or two.

Now located in Snoqualmie and formerly based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the company is the first biotechnology — or more specifically bioinformatics —company in the Mukilteo business park, according to Greg Riva.

Riva, of Colliers International, represents the center’s owners, WiredZone.

CombiMatrix’s 58 employees , many of whom made the shift from California, will move into 84,000 square feet of the 350,000-square-foot building, which also will accommodate future growth. "This is our final home," said Sia Ghazvini, vice president for business development.

And it’s a good one, he added, because it offers a great environment for science and personal life, and a fertile market for qualified employees.

The company’s technology marries semiconductor chips with electrochemistry to create research tools for biologists, he explained.

Essentially, the company is developing a kind of a "designer biochip" — a 3-D chip that can be programmed to make DNA, peptides or small molecules, he said. Custom chips can be produced within 48 hours that will permit researchers to study and manage complex information such as that contained in the human genome.

Eventually, such chips may be used to help a physician determine how an individual would respond to a specific drug or dosage to personalize a course of treatment, Ghazvini said.

Unlike its competitors, which use a two-dimensional glass chip, CombiMatrix employs a porous reaction layer with thousands of tiny chemical "virtual flasks" in a grid pattern. Instead of being separated by physical walls, the flasks are divided by special chemical solutions. Each has electronic circuitry that can respond to a computer instruction to build a unique chemical compound.

The power lies in the fact that you can design your own molecule, Ghazvini said. "Every researcher has different questions. This will change the dynamics of how they do their research."

CombiMatrix recently raised $36 million in private funds, with investments from a lengthy list of technology investors including Acacia Research, Emerging Growth Management and Oracle Partners. To date, the 5-year-old company has raised more than $61 million.

The company’s chairman and chief executive is Gerald Knudson, who was executive vice president of Sterling Diagnostic Imaging before joining CombiMatrix in February. Donald Montgomery, chief technical officer, developed the technology and co-founded the company with Brooke Anderson, the company’s vice president of software development.

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