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Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has licensed seminal patents for Lab–on–a–Chip technology to Caliper Technologies, Inc., of Mountain View, California. The transfer of the technology contained in these patents was key to Caliper's first products and its rapid transition from a startup to a publicly traded company and world leader in microfluidics technology in less than five years.

Microfluidic Lab–on–a–Chip systems enable experiments ordinarily performed in a full–sized laboratory to be conducted on chip devices smaller than a credit card. The chip contains microscopic channels through which fluids and chemicals are moved to accurately perform assays, significantly reducing time and expense.

The initial commercial uses have been in the areas of drug discovery and biotechnology. Over 35 lead drug candidates have been discovered with Caliper's technology.

The Lab–on–a–Chip concept was proposed, developed, and patented at ORNL. The laboratory initially funded the effort through its Laboratory–Directed Research and Development Program, first by providing support for a small seed money project and subsequently by funding genetic and protein research. Both the inventors and ORNL technology transfer staff were involved in marketing the technology.

Caliper, with Agilent Technologies, Inc., of Palo Alto, California, introduced the first commercial product in 1999. Caliper has since launched its own product line, and offers complete systems to end users and components to equipment manufacturers. It has installed more than 2000 bioanalyzers and has sales of over 500,000 chips per year. As of March 2003, Caliper had cash and marketable securities of over $140 million and a cumulative R&D investment of $120 million.

MIT Technology Review (May 2003) ranked it No. 2 for the technological strength of its patent portfolio in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical sector, ahead of major companies such asPfizer, Eli Lilly, and Roche, and No. 3 across all industries for its “Current Impact Index. ”Technology transfer from ORNL was crucial in making this phenomenal commercial success possible. Lab–on–a–Chip won an R&D 100 Award in 1996, was named one of the top 40 technologies over the 36–year history of the R&D 100 Award, and recently received an Honorable Mention in the September 2003 FLC Southeast Region's Excellence in Technology Transfer competition.

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