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UMass Boston Researcher, Partner Develop Non-Invasive Technique for Lead Testing in Humans

New Venture Development Center Fosters Breakthrough by Startups

Boston (Vocus) September 24, 2009 -- The University of Massachusetts Boston's recently opened Venture Development Center (VDC) is facilitating the development of a new, non-invasive, green method to test lead levels in humans. The test, which has completed an initial, highly successful round of clinical trials, is particularly good news for young children and their parents because it does not rely on puncturing the skin and drawing blood. Instead, a medical professional simply swabs the patient's gums, with no pain, and little to no risk of infection.

The testing process was developed by UMass Boston professor Robyn Hannigan, who launched her startup company, GeoMed Analytical, in the VDC as the new research and development center opened this spring. Dr. Hannigan is partnering with a second startup, OFT Labs, a Marlton, New Jersey, company which is moving its research and development operations to UMass Boston's VDC this month to complete clinical trials for the new oral testing technique and prepare it for commercial use.

"This is a great early success on a couple of levels for UMass Boston's innovations incubator," said William Brah, executive director of the VDC. "On the one hand, you have a UMass Boston professor extending her research for commercial application, employing UMass Boston students who will gain invaluable experience, and attracting another, partner startup to our campus. On the other, for kids and parents alike, this innovation will eliminate a lot of crying, distress, and bad associations around lead testing."

Dr. Hannigan, who chairs UMass Boston's Department of Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences, focuses much of her research on metals in the human body and founded GeoMed Analytical at the VDC to explore the possible commercial applications for her research. In February, Dr. Hannigan, along with Eugene Elwell of OFT Labs, secured a patent for the oral testing procedure and have since been working to finalize its commercial use. An additional benefit of the oral procedure is that it produces little waste and is much greener than existing tests.

Elevated lead levels in young children can be harmful to their cognitive development, and have been associated with lower academic achievement and behavioral issues. Physicians routinely test children for the presence of lead for preventive reasons.

In addition to OFT Labs and GeoMed Analytical, the VDC is home to: DPixel, a management consulting company specialized in seed and early stage investments. DPixel is the advisor to dSeed, an early stage venture capital company.

  • Anthurium Solutions, Inc., a software company building a platform for matching continuous digital work with virtual workers globally.
  • Symmetric Computing, a startup company commercializing advanced supercomputing technology.
  • Hertaste, a startup web-based market research firm.
  • RetireHub, a technology-powered provider of retirement planning and investment management services.

About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston's only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston's seven colleges and graduate schools serve more than 14,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit

DeWayne Lehman, 617-287-5302
Will Kilburn, 617-287-5317


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