“In the heart of the biotech capital of the world, companies such as Fluidigm have helped lead the charge in battling COVID and saving lives,” David Canepa, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, said.
Local and state officials recently visited the biotechnology company, headquartered in South San Francisco, which played a large role in addressing the COVID pandemic by providing thousands of testing through its microfluidic technology.
“We could serve the state of California, we could serve the world,” Chris Linthwaite, president and CEO of Fluidigm, said. “So it’s quite a massive acceleration and expansion of the technology.”
The microfluidics technology was founded 20 years ago and became the perfect application for the need for COVID testing to be done on a larger scale. A quarter of a million tests could be a run a day based on their manufacturing capacity. It uses saliva samples but also accommodates nasal and blood samples, Fluidigm representatives said.
The company shared one of its microfluidics cartridges in a tour with Canepa and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma on July 9, Canepa said.
“It also manufactures equipment so advanced that it enables clinical researchers to speed up responses in the fight against cancer.”
Also called integrated fluidic circuit or IFC for short, it runs a large number of samples and determines through certain sequences of DNA and RNA if there is a virus or bacteria present, Andrew Quong, chief science officer at Fluidigm, said.
On top of detecting the COVID-19 virus, it can also detect others such as the influenza virus or if the person carries a specific mutation such as a BRCA1 mutation that is associated with breast cancer or ovarian cancer.
As these smaller instruments are created, it becomes more affordable and easier to use versus the larger, more expensive equipment, thus enabling hospitals and the labs associated with the hospitals that are not as well off to adapt and adopt the latest technologies, Quong said.
“We’re able to go into smaller labs and allow them to function like larger labs so this really does allow us to reach out to the underserved community that might need testing in the future,” he said.
Canepa asked how local and state policymakers could support this work to which Linthwaite responded that it hopes to bridge the gap between government agencies to better mobilize their resources. Its main point of contact is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense.
It received 40 million dollars of investments last summer including from funding from the NIH which helped them scale up their manufacturing and its R&D process.
The life sciences tool company has 12 office locations across 10 countries, where it makes instruments, reagents, chemistry test kits and more for use in biology including several types of research primarily in the area of immunology and oncology.
The tour was arranged by Biocom California, an organization that leads in connecting and advocating for companies in the life sciences industry.
According to Biocom, Peninsula companies in the Life Science Industry, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, directly employed 72,294 people in 2019 and generated $68.5 billion in economic activity.
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