Gene Logic Inc. is in the information business. The Gaithersburg company, which sells genetic information to pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, recently developed a new sensor for collecting genetic information.

But instead of keeping the development and manufacture of this sensor in-house, Gene Logic spun it off last week as a separate business. The new company, MetriGenix Inc., also collected $15 million in venture backing from a group of investors.

Andrew O'Beirne, a former senior vice president for new ventures at Gene Logic, is MetriGenix's chief executive and president.

MetriGenix was spun off into a separate entity by its parent because as useful as its technology is to Gene Logic's main activities -- selling genetic information -- the development of systems to do that diverts resources.

"This was basically a distraction to the core business," said O'Beirne.

That's also why Gene Logic looked to outside fundraisers to finance the venture, drawing on a group of biotechnology investors. Oxford Bioscience Partners, Burrill Biotechnology Capital Fund, Infineon Ventures and GE Equity participated in the round. Gene Logic provided only intellectual property, yet retains a 54 percent equity stake in the company. Gene Logic will also no longer have to financially support the company as it continues product development, which will help Gene Logic's bottom line begining in the fourth quarter of this year.

MetriGenix is developing the Flow-thru Chip, a one-square-centimeter silicon chip packed with 1 million tiny channels. The substance being examined passes through the microchannels, where biomolecular probes are placed. Because the chip has more space for sensors, it is hoped that it will be faster and more accurate than traditional flat chips.

Development of the chip is in the late research stages. O'Beirne hopes to have a finished product commercially available in the next year and to double the size of the company. MetriGenix begins with just 14 employees.

"Thirteen 'R and D' guys and me," he said.

Profitability for the start-up is four years away, according to O'Beirne, so the firm will need to raise additional venture capital.

"We anticipate another round of funding in about a year and half," he said.

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