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Woburn blood testing firm sold

By Robert Weisman
Globe Staff / October 14, 2011

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Claros Diagnostics Inc., a seven-year-old Woburn company that has developed a specialized blood-testing device, has been bought by a Florida biopharmaceutical company.

Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday say OPKO Health Inc. paid more than $49 million in cash and stock for Claros, which was backed by venture capital firms Bioventures Investors of Wellesley and Oxford Bioscience Partners of Boston.

OPKO, based in Miami, plans to keep Claros and its 16 employees in Woburn, where they will work to develop additional medical tests using the Claros device, which combines a disposable test cassette resembling a credit card with a toaster-size desktop analyzer.

Doctors can administer the tests in their offices and get immediate results, rather than send patients to an outside blood laboratory. For instance, a patient visiting a urologist would be able to sign in at the front desk, take a PSA prostate cancer test by adding a finger-stick drop of blood into the Claros cassette, and confer with his doctor about the results minutes later.

The device has the capacity to administer as many as 20 separate tests at the same time. It is currently undergoing clinical trials before being submitted for regulatory approval.

“We’ll be developing a whole portfolio of tests and also expanding manufacturing in Woburn,’’ said Claros’s chief executive, Michael J. Magliochetti. “We have the vehicle to take these tests to the point of care and become a multinational world-class diagnostics company.’’

The technology underpinning the Claros device was developed in, and licensed from, the Harvard University chemistry lab of professor George M. Whitesides, a leader in the field of microfluidics, a mechanical flow system that integrates multiple laboratory functions on a microchip.

OPKO is developing its own antibody-based tests for early diagnosis of things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and lung and pancreatic cancer. The company is hoping the Claros technology can be used with OPKO’s biomarkers, OPKO chief executive Phillip Frost said. Frost is also chairman of Israeli generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

The deal marks the second sale of a Bioventures Investors portfolio company in the past three months. Bioventures-backed Spirus Medical Inc., a West Bridgewater start-up that is developing a spiral endoscope to improve tests for gastrointestinal disorders, was acquired by Japan’s Olympus Corp. in August for a potential $60 million if it meets a series of milestones.

“It underlines the strength of Massachusetts technology,’’ said Peter Feinstein, managing director of Bioventures Investors. “We are able to exist through the ups and downs of the economy because the axis of technology in Massachusetts is very strong.’’

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.