BIO Innovation Zone Company Snapshots: Targeson Inc.

Next month in San Diego at the BIO International Convention, BIO will be partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science foundation (NSF) to host the first-ever BIO Innovation Zone. The Zone will feature Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funded early-stage biotech companies.

The SBIR/STTR program provides U.S. federal funding to small businesses engaged in research with the potential for commercialization. Companies are rigorously vetted through the NIH and NSF SBIR review process prior to receiving the funding. The majority of participating companies in the Innovation Zone have received SBIR Phase II grants, which provide up to $1 million dollars in funding to engage in R&D that has the potential for commercialization.

Over the new few weeks, we will feature snapshots of a few of the companies who will participate in the Zone. Today, we interviewed Jack DeFranco, the president & CEO of San Diego, CA-based Targeson Inc., a small business supported by NIH’s SBIR program.

What is your company’s lead product or technology?

Targeson, Inc. is a leader in microsphere technology for use in life sciences research applications. We develop, manufacture and market acoustically active microspheres for university, medical research center, governmental, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology customers. We have leveraged our basic platform technology to develop products in three market segments, ultrasound molecular imaging, gene transfection and cell separation. Targeson provides several commercial products for use in the research market, including first-in-class ultrasound contrast imaging agents under the brand names Targestar® and Visistar®, and targetable transfection agents under the brand name Targesphere®.

The Targestar family of ultrasound contrast agents enable visualization of the vasculature and quantification of blood flow or enable the linking of targeting ligands to specific molecular markers on the endothelium. The Visistar family of molecular targeted contrast agents come with specific targeted ligands already attached.

The Targesphere family of transfection agents can be used for molecularly targeted in vitro and in vivo transfection. Plasmid, siRNA and other nucleic acid payloads can be coupled to the surface of the agent by simple incubation. Intracellular delivery of the payload is mediated by activation of acoustic energy. For the first time, Targesphere with streptavidin enables the targeting of specific cells for gene delivery.

How has the NIH SBIR program helped your company grow?

The NIH SBIR program has enabled us to develop the microsphere technology from research to commercialization in the medical research markets. It has also allowed us to explore and develop a new pipeline of products based on our core technology by both expanding existing applications and developing new products.

What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?

Our target milestone for 2014 is to complete one product development and marketing agreement with one of several potential strategic partners in cell transfection or cell separation. Longer term we intend to establish additional partnerships/collaborations to expand our technology.

What do you hope to gain out of your participation at the 2014 BIO International Convention?

We hope to meet future customers, partners and licensees of our technology and products. We also hope to make more researchers in pharmaceutical companies, universities and research institutions aware of all of our existing products lines. To accomplish these goals at the BIO Convention, we will be exhibiting in the NIH Innovation Zone, making a company presentation, and participating in the one-on-one partnering activities.

Tell us something about your company that investors might not know.

Targeson has made great strides leveraging our core technology of microspheres and molecular targeting into 3 research market segments. Further, we have engineered our microsphere technology to be compatible in humans so that a strategic partner would be able to develop our products for clinical diagnostic applications.

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