U-M Innovations at the Front-Lines of COVID-19

Shannon Beeman
March 17, 2020

HandyLab launched as a technology spinout of the University of Michigan, with support from EDF Ventures, an Ann Arbor venture capital firm. The startup was founded by two PhD students, Sundaresh Brahmasandra (Sundu) and Kalyan Handique (Handy).

After receiving $75,000 in seed funding in December of 1999, HandyLab began its operations in the spring of 2000. The U-M startup received $2.5 million in its first round of funding in the fall of 2000 with EDF leading the round and three other venture capital firms participating – including the University of Michigan’s student-led Wolverine Venture Fund.

Over the next few years, the company focused on developing the unique micro-fluidics technology into a completely integrated product that could be commercialized in the clinical diagnostic fields. Their flagship device “Jaguar” was designed to help doctors quickly identify infections. A second round of funding closed at $5.5 million in May 2002 that included Hewlett Packard and SBC Ventures, in addition to all four of the funds that invested in the first round.

In 2009, HandyLab was the first company to be acquired from the Wolverine Venture Fund portfolio. The student-led fund invested $350,000 in the medical-device company in six rounds between 2000 and 2005. HandyLab was sold to Jersey-based Becton, Dickinson, Co., known as BD, for what was reported to be $300 million.

Today, HandyLab’s flagship product, renamed BD MAX, is on the front-line of coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. Tom Polen, BD CEO and President, released the following statement after a White House meeting with companies who have been involved in the effort to expand access to COVID-19 testing: “Early next week, BD will be submitting an emergency use authorization request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus test for use on the BD MAX molecular diagnostic system. The BD MAX system is already in use in hundreds of laboratories across the U.S. in nearly every state.”

From an idea in a lab to the creation of a device impacting the lives of people around the globe, U-M entrepreneurs and venture investors are changing the world.