Success Story

Sandia Scientist Ventures Out to the Public Sector: Lab-on-a-Disk

Neonatal sepsis—a bacterial infection in the blood—is one of the leading causes of death in newborns. It takes 24-48 hours to get results from current test methods, and a high volume of blood must be drawn—a challenge when dealing with an infant. Routine screening for sepsis may soon be much faster and easier with a point-of-care diagnostic tool being developed by Sandstone Diagnostics. The company is using Sandia National Laboratories’ SpinDx™ platform as the basis for an instrument that can diagnose the condition in about 15 minutes, with just a drop of blood.

Sandstone Diagnostics was founded by former Sandia National Laboratories employees and SpinDx inventors Greg Sommer and Ulrich Schaff, who are licensing the technology. Benefiting from two separate NIH grants totaling $300,000, Sandstone Diagnostics is advancing the company’s long-term goal to manufacture and sell instruments and disposable test kits for different medical testing applications based on SpinDx technology. Sandstone is also developing an over-the-counter male fertility test kit that would allow for semen analysis at home. Additionally, Sommer and Schaff are working with researchers at Stanford University to look at blood-based biomarkers for earlier detection of sepsis proteins and cell markers under a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.

SpinDx was originally developed for biodefense, with funding from a Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project and the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD). SpinDx is a lab-on-a-disk that uses 4-inch plastic CD-like disks with etched microfluidic channels containing beads designed for specific assays. Test samples placed on the disks are spun in a “reader” device. SpinDx combines bead-based assays with sedimentation to separate the beads, differentiating it from other centrifugal devices.

SpinDx has both medical and non-medical applications, ranging from detection of markers of infectious diseases to food and water safety testing. It can quickly complete a variety of lab screening tests and be used by people with minimal scientific training in a lab or in the field. Results are available in minutes. A new test can be run as soon as a different disk is inserted, making it highly versatile.

In addition, the technology has been licensed by several companies that are developing its use for point-of-care diagnostics testing, water pathogen testing, and other applications.

Entrepreneurial Separation to Transfer Technology (ESTT)

ESTT allows Sandia to transfer technology to the private sector by permitting Sandia employees to leave the Labs to start up new technology companies or help expand existing companies. Entrepreneurs are guaranteed reinstatement by Sandia if they choose to return to the Labs. Greg Sommer left the Labs and

Department of Energy | May 2015

U.S. Department of Energy | IX.Appendix E – National Laboratory Success Stories 95

co-founded Sandstone Diagnostics in 2012 to manufacture and sell instruments and disposable test kits for medical testing applications based on Sandia’s SpinDx technology, which Sommer helped invent.