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Local company develops new petri dish

Published: Mon, June 7, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.




A local biotechnology company has started production on a new type of petri dish that it says has the potential to shape the future of laboratory testing.

Nanologix, a small company tucked behind the Emerald Diner at 843 North Main St., finished renovations of its production facility earlier this year and has started to manufacture its BioNanoPore, or BNP, test kits. The company expects to begin full-scale production “any day now,” said chief executive Bret Barnhizer.

The patented BNP technology, developed at the company’s research lab in Cincinnati, promises to confirm the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses in a fraction of the time needed by standard petri dishes, Barnhizer said.

“We’re looking forward to making a big impact in the market,” he said. “I don’t think we are going to be a small company for very long.”

The Hubbard site, a former bath and cabinet shop, has room for 56 production machines with the capacity to produce 350,000 test kits per day.

The company has only installed eight machines so far, but more are on the way, said Barnhizer.

Nanologix has 10 employees working at its Hubbard facility, and plans to hire about 10 more by the end of the year, Barnhizer said. At full capacity, the site could employ 75-100 workers, he said.

“Our goal is high-volume production,” Barnhizer said.

Barnhizer expects that, as Nanologix’s technology becomes better known, the company will be able to corner a significant portion of the laboratory testing market.

Unlike standard petri dishes, the BNP product puts the microorganism on a membrane that is impermeable to the cells. The nutrient solution below and above the membrane allow the organism to grow.

Instead of waiting for microorganism growth to become visible in the petri dish, the membrane is put on a staining solution that highlights growth before it could be seen in a standard petri dish.

“We’re the next generation of petri dishes,” Barnhizer said. “We are going to make it so people depend on petri dishes.”

The technology has been successfully tested by several third party laboratories, Barnhizer said.

The Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, an applied science and technology company, published a study last year that shows that BNP kits showed results in significantly less time than traditional methods in tests for anthrax and bubonic plagues. According to the study, the BNP anthrax tests took only six hours, while traditional tests needed 24. And the BNP tests for bubonic plague cut the traditional testing time — 48 hours — in half.

The potential for Nanologix’s rapid detection technology is huge, Barnhizer said. For example, if doctors could detect harmful pathogens — such as staphylococcus, which causes staph infections, or Group B streptococcus, a harmful bacteria found in 30 percent of reproductive-age women — in a shorter amount of time, they would not have to use broad-spectrum antibiotics while waiting for test results. This would presumably lessen the existence of antibiotic-resistent bacteria, Barnhizer added.

“This is pretty much the biggest thing to happen to the petri dish,” Barnhizer said. “I won’t say it’s as big as penicillin, but its huge.”

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