GeneCapture, a HudsonAlpha resident associate company, recently celebrated a milestone: Its first anniversary.  GeneCapture was founded by Krishnan Chittur, a University of Alabama in Huntsville professor who first caught the biotech bug while on academic sabbatical at Research Genetics.

Q: When was GeneCapture founded?

We founded the company in October 2009. We are a startup in the medical devices field. Originally, we incorporated as SLP Diagnostics, but changed the name to GeneCapture because it better describes what we do.  

Q: What does GeneCapture do?  

We are building a portable device that will identify an infection in about one hour.  It is based on a complementary genetic signature technique that I patented with three co-inventors. We intend to sell the device and the consummable test slides to hospitals, clinics, doctors offices and nursing homes. 

Q: How will this improve human health and quality of life? 

Currently it takes 24 – 72 hours to identify an infection with traditional cell culture procedures.  Any technique that can reduce that interval of time will help get patients the right medication faster, help to manage pandemics and reduce human-to-human infection.

Q: Can you tell us about the leadership team?   

I am president of the company and Peggy Sammon is our executive vice president.  We have developed our strategy along with input from many others in the field. My background is in chemical engineering and Peggy, who is also working with another HudsonAlpha resident company, iXpressGenes, has a business background.  We are both new to the medical devices field, but we have the science and business experience to get the company to the next level.  Marc Pusey is our chief scientist, as well as a co-inventor of the technique we have patented.  Marc is also working with iXpressGenes and is a well-known expert in fluorescence spectroscopy. 

Q: What is your history in the biotech community?  

Years ago, I spoke to Jim Hudson about spending an academic sabbatical at Research Genetics and he welcomed me in. I learned a great deal about molecular biology and the role Research Genetics played in the genetics revolution.  The year I went back to the UAH campus, I helped write the PhD program in biotechnology science and engineering.  I have taught classes in bioinformatics that have involved scientists from Research Genetics and more recently, from HudsonAlpha.  

An opportunity for another sabbatical came up just as HudsonAlpha opened its doors and again Jim Hudson was very welcoming.  It was during this last sabbatical at HudsonAlpha that I had the opportunity  to work on our technology and advance it to the stage where we could commercialize it.  I am active in the local biotech community in several ways, including the Partnership for Biotechnology Research (PBR), advising biotech students and working with researchers at HudsonAlpha.

What is your role at UAH?  

I am a professor of chemical engineering and teach electives in bioprocess engineering, bioseparations and bioinformatics.  This is in addition to teaching our core chemical engineering classes.  I advise students who are interested in biotechnology and am involved in several educational programs at HudsonAlpha, including the BioTrain internship program. 

What is it about HudsonAlpha that made it an attractive location from entrepreneurial and scientific perspectives?  

This business would not have started without HudsonAlpha.  It has been absolutely critical to our product research and the business plan.  The facility is terrific but the ability to collaborate with other scientists and corporate managers, to attend the seminars and learn from work being done here is so important.  Also, there is the encouragement that we get here; something all entrepreneurs need.  I granted five percent of my founding stock to the institute because it plays such an important role in our business  and because I wanted to give back as soon as I could.

What do you see in Huntsville’s biotech future?    

Thanks to some visionary leaders, biotech is beginning to get a foothold here.  We just attended the Southeast BIO Investor Forum in Atlanta and many people said they have been hearing great things about biotech in Huntsville.  The word is getting out. I think our rich rocket heritage has built an environment of entrepreneurship that is unrivaled in the state. Between UAHuntsville, Biztech, Cummings Research Park, and HudsonAlpha, you can find many people who are generous with their time and talents, willing to help biotech flourish.