Boulder biotech company lands $35M government contract for Covid-19 testing, plans new facility
By Jensen Werley – Reporter, Denver Business Journal
Jul 8, 2021
LightDeck Diagnostics, a Boulder-based biotech formerly known as MBio Diagnostics, was awarded a $35.1 million contract on Wednesday to enable the company to quickly ramp up production of its 5-minute, point-of-care tests for Covid-19.
The contract from the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services specifically focuses on LightDeck’s upcoming Ultra-Rapid Antigen and Total Antibody tests.
With the funds, LightDeck said it will be able to increase its Colorado-based production capacity from 50,000 tests per month to 1 million per month by September 2022. The company also plans to build a new facility to handle such a scale.
“Our mission is to democratize access to diagnostics solutions that deliver speed without compromising accuracy. We’re honored to receive this contract from the DOD and HHS to drive our mission forward and continue to improve the state of our public health,” CEO Chris Myatt said in a prepared statement.
The company specializes in medical devices that can deliver lab-quality test results within minutes. The technology works with a disposable cartridge inserted into a small box-like reader. In the case of a test for Covid-19 antibodies, for example, a patient’s
blood sample would be loaded onto the cartridge. The blood would flow down through a channel in the cartridge.
Antibodies are printed on a waveguide — the “secret sauce” of LightDeck’s technology, said Nick Traggis, executive vice president of corporate development at LightDeck. If Covid-19 antibodies are present in the blood sample, they will stick to markers on the waveguide. The waveguide is illuminated with a laser. The company says its technique leads to a faster, more sensitive approach to diagnostic testing.
In the last 12 months, LightDeck has grown from about 30 employees to more than 100 in Colorado, Traggis said. With this contract, the company plans to build a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Front Range. When everything is up to full production, it should add about 100 new jobs to the area, he said.
Traggis added that the company expects its clinical trials for its tests to be completed by the end of the year. Next year, LightDeck will be focused on urgent care clinics and retail pharmacies as potential customers, along with physicians’ offices and hospitals. LightDeck’s technology is already used for non-human applications, such as for water testing and in veterinary work.
In October, the company changed its name from MBio Diagnostics to LightDeck Diagnostics. At the time, the company said that the name change reflects its commitment to its proprietary platform. Last summer, then-MBio announced it acquired another Boulder biotech company, Brava Diagnostics.
The company has been steadily raising money as well. In February, it was awarded $5.65 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, which falls under HHS, to develop an antigen test that can detect the Covid-19 virus. In October 2020, the company also announced $11 million in Series B financing
from Incubic, Entrada and Boulder Ventures. Those funds were for supporting the development of Covid-19 and other health care tests.
If everything goes according to plan, Traggis said the company will be producing test cartridges in its new facility by the end of summer next year.
“We really love being in Colorado,” he said. “All of our biggest customers are all Colorado-based customers, we’re excited to bring additional jobs to the state and hire more smart people from the local universities, which most of us came from.”