CIA fund invests in biosensing company

In-Q-Tel, the private, nonprofit venture capital group funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, has agreed to invest in a company that develops technology for sensing biological and chemical agents.

IatroQuest Corp. of Montreal will use the money to enhance and customize its Bio-Alloy technology to better meet national security needs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Imagine how a smoke detector triggers an alarm that results in immediate preventive action. Likewise, IatroQuest's technology will be a critical enabling component that can be used to rapidly detect and improve response times for other environmental hazards in air or water," said Gilman Louie, chief executive officer of In-Q-Tel.

Bio-Alloy combines biotechnology, advanced semi-conductor materials, nanotechnology and photonics to detect and identify a wide range of biological and chemical agents, the company said.

IatroQuest's Bio-Alloy biochips are made of silicon-based semiconductor materials that are nanostructured and chemically modified to bind to a wide variety of molecules, including antibodies, enzymes, nucleotides and chemicals. According to the company, the underlying detection principle is based on a photoluminescence response, which senses changes in surface energy states when the material is excited with low-power blue LED light. When target agents attach to the Bio-Alloy surface and the surface energy is perturbed, there is an increase in green light intensity, indicating presence of an agent.

"IatroQuest's ability to match the sensitivity of today's laboratory methods at much lower cost and power can revolutionize biodefense and commercial diagnostic capabilities," said John Schafer, chief executive officer of IatroQuest.

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