MassDevice Q&A: John McDonough

August 4, 2009 by Joe Nowlan

The T2 Biosystems CEO on the company's innovative, miniaturized diagnostic tool, the importance of de-risking before you hit the fundraising trail and why the U.S. intelligence community is interested in T2's technology.

John McDonough, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based T2 Biosystems Inc., is an optimist.

Bullish on his 22-employee company's prospects (the estimated $40 billion diagnostics market might have something to do with that), McDonough (far left in the picture at right) spoke with MassDevice about the technology behind T2's diagnostic device, which uses a miniaturized version of a magnetic resonance imaging machine to deliver near-instant test results from just about any blood, urine or saliva sample.

The devices, which might eventually include a hand-held product aimed at the home consumer market, is still in the developmental phase, he told us. The first device, a bench-top model roughly 12 inches by 15 inches in diameter, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2010 and to hit the market by late 2010 or early 2011.

McDonough also touched on what it takes to raise money in today's investment landscape and explains the interest of one of the company's backers, which is affiliated with the U.S. intelligence community.

MassDevice: Give us the capsule view of how T2 Biosystems came to be.

John McDonough: T2 was formed out of a collaboration of executives and faculty at the Mass. Institute of Technology and Mass. General Hospital — a "who’s who" of founders including [MIT Institute Professor] Bob Langer, [MIT engineering professor] Michael Cima, Lee Josephson [associate professor at MGH's Center for Molecular Imaging Research] and [CMIR director] Ralph Weissleder. They received a grant from the National Institutes of Health related to nanotechnology. They did work in their labs and essentially discovered a new diagnostic detection method that uses magnetic resonance and nanotechnology to detect the presence of pathogens in virtually any type of a sample.

Diagnostic detection has been around a long time. But virtually all of the other methods are based on visually trying to detect something. You might use fluorescence or you’re trying to light up a pathogen so a human or a computer can read it. And because you’re trying to detect something visually, the key is the quality of the picture. The sharper the image, the more likely it is you can detect something that may be abnormal.

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