Startup uses new incubator space in CNSI to commercialize UCLA technology

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Jennifer Marcus
UCLA has opened its new technology incubation space within the California NanoSystems Institute to Matrix Sensors Inc., a startup company in the process of developing multichannel gas and biological sensor systems based on technology developed jointly by UCLA and Stanford University researchers.
 
The technology holds promise for the highly sensitive and accurate detection of harmful gases, which could have practical applications in both public and industrial settings.
 
Matrix Sensors is a seed-stage company founded in March 2006 by UCLA chemistry and biochemistry professor James Gimzewski and Stanford electrical engineering professors Butrus (Pierre) T. Khuri-Yakub and Calvin F. Quate, the key researchers and inventors in the area of developing CMUT (capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer) technology for chemical and biological sensors.

As part of this arrangement, Matrix Sensors has obtained an exclusive license for this technology that will provide the University of California with an equity position in the company. Matrix has rented lab space in the incubator at the CNSI and has access to core lab facilities to pursue research and development work.
 
The company proposes to use CMUT technology for gas and biological analytes. The goal of the technology is to develop products with high analyte resolution, accuracy and stability suitable for commercial applications, such as monitoring the release of gases in large public settings.

Atomic-force microscope instrumentation will be used to characterize sensor microchips to do functionalization work. This will lay the foundation to test, in careful and controlled ways, how well the chemical layers can be applied. The initial goals are to make microchip devices that are chemically sensitive and to characterize the nature of the chemical sensitivity.

"The CNSI is committed to accelerating the transfer of new technologies from the laboratory to the clinical and commercial marketplace," said Leonard H. Rome, interim director of the CNSI and senior associate dean of research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Matrix can serve as a potential model for how UCLA may support startups with unique access to faculty and lab facilities to nurture early-stage R&D. This directly flows from the institute's mission to facilitate collaborations with private industry for the rapid commercialization of new innovations."

"At this stage in the company's development, we can't possibly afford to set up sufficient lab space on our own," said Mike Cable, CEO of Matrix Sensors. "Having access to core lab facilities, particularly the Nano and Pico Characterization Lab, with state-of-the-art atomic-force microscopes, will be essential to our ability to take the R&D to the next level."

"The versatility of these microchip sensors is very encouraging in terms of practical applications," Gimzewski said. "We think the sensors can be placed in portable handheld devices such as cell phones, which broadens the accessibility of instant analysis."
 
The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) is an integrated research center operating jointly at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara whose mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations for discoveries in nanosystems and nanotechnology; train the next generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; and facilitate partnerships with industry, fueling economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world. The CNSI was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California and an additional $250 million in federal research grants and industry funding. At the institute, scientists in the areas of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, computational science and engineering are measuring, modifying and manipulating the building blocks of our world — atoms and molecules. These scientists benefit from an integrated laboratory culture enabling them to conduct dynamic research at the nanoscale, leading to significant breakthroughs in the areas of health, energy, the environment and information technology.
 
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Media Contact:
Jennifer Marcus