September 30, 2013


September 30, 2013, Cairo, Egypt– The American University in Cairo (AUC) announced today, in a press conference held on Tahrir Square campus, the launch of Egypt’s first University spinoff company. The company, D-Kimia, develops novel and affordable diagnostic solutions to detect a broad range of diseases, initially focusing on the identification of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that affects over 170 million people worldwide. D-Kimia is the first biotechnology start-up company in Egypt that is based on know-how and technologies developed at a university in Egypt. Speakers at the press conference were Lisa Anderson, AUC president; Amr Sharawi, provost; Amr Salama, counselor; Hassan Azzazy, professor of chemistry, AUC, and co-founder and chief scientist, D-Kimia, L.L.C; Karim Hussein, co-founder and CEO, D-Kimia and Ahmed Ellaithy, director of the Technology Transfer Office (TTO), AUC. “The launch of Egypt’s first University spinoff company today is an important milestone in our collective efforts to ensure that leading research taking place inside the laboratories on our university campuses is fully utilized to the benefit of society," said Anderson, adding that this initiative by AUC provides a leading example for how higher education institutions can support the commercialization of innovative research ideas developed inside universities. "AUC is part of a global movement of higher education institutions committed to benefiting from the talents of distinguished researchers like Professor Hassan Azzazy to address pressing needs in their communities and around the world."“AUC has granted D-Kimia the exclusive license to four patent pending technologies developed at the Novel Diagnostics and Therapeutics Lab at AUC under the direction of Professor Azzazy,” said Hussein. Hussein, a serial entrepreneur, who has led innovation and product development at several global healthcare and technology companies, added that a sponsored research agreement was signed between AUC and D-Kimia that enables the company to access labs and equipment at AUC’s School of Sciences and Engineering. “In addition, D-Kimia has been selected in the first AUC Venture Lab Competition conducted by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at the School of Business.”

Any infectious disease can only be managed through three approaches – vaccination, containment and/or treatment. “Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. To contain Hepatitis C we need to first know who is infected and then build awareness on ways to limit the spread of the disease. Most Egyptians are not tested for Hepatitis C and do not know if they have the disease and may unwittingly infect their family and friends. Widespread testing has been limited due to the high cost and complexity of the test and limited awareness,” said Hussein.

D-Kimia plans to provide a cheaper and simpler approach to testing to help control the disease. It develops diagnostic tests that utilize gold nanoparticles to detect specific nucleic acid sequences (RNA/DNA) of a wide range of targets including viruses, bacteria, and genes associated with cancer. Another line of assays are capable of detecting protein biomarkers of infectious or other diseases. “The nanoparticle-based assays are simple, accurate, affordable, and generate results much faster than comparable technologies,” explained Azzazy.

There are national, regional, and global demands to reduce the cost of laboratory tests and to generate fast and accurate results using minimally invasive specimens. “The developed assays meet such demands as they allow quick and direct detection of, microbial and cancer-related genes in serum, sputum, and urine. They eliminate the need for expensive complicated instruments, advanced infrastructure, and highly skilled technicians,” said Azzazy. He noted that the new assays would support national efforts to control major illnesses in Egypt such as hepatitis C virus infection and cancer and allow Egypt to become competitive in the global market of in vitro diagnostics.

In addition to developing nanodiagnostic assays, Azzazy said that they have gained invaluable expertise in developing spinoff companies in Egypt that could be shared with others in Egypt and the region. “It is expected that competitive researchers in Egyptian and Middle Eastern universities will follow the AUC model and develop their own spinoff companies,” he added. In addition to being based in Cairo, Egypt, a US arm of D-Kimia will be established in the near future.

Regarding D-Kimia’s future projects, Hussein said that the company plans to rapidly market and distribute the product worldwide, particularly, in regions with high prevalence of HCV. He added that the company also plans to further develop its diagnostic platform to identify the nucleic acid signature of a range of viruses and genetic disease markers including tuberculosis, malaria, breast cancer and bladder cancer. “We are also exploring the use of our platform to rapidly identify the new and deadly MERS Corona Virus.”

According to the agreement between AUC and D-Kimia, the company has the exclusive rights to use and develop this technology for commercial purposes. “AUC will receive royalties on products sold by D-Kimia that use the technologies developed at AUC,” Hussein explained.

Azzazy explained how AUC helped in the different stages of establishing the company. “The well-equipped laboratories in Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center and the Department of Chemistry were essential for developing the technologies. The competitive advanced graduate programs in biotechnology, nanotechnology and chemistry, which attract top students from the entire country, have allowed recruiting skilled researchers. The Technology Transfer Office and AUC lawyers have helped in many logistics and negotiations throughout the process which took almost two years.” Ellaithy, noted that if a company is successful in launching a product based on a patent a problem in society or a market need is addressed.“Such knowledge based companies have the potential of expanding rapidly thereby contributing significantly to the national economy and providing excellent employment opportunities. Companies like Gatorade, Google, Genentech and RIM are examples of university spin-outs that grew to offer successful global products. The impact of these on the national economy is significant, with thousands of jobs created, taxes paid on wages and revenues, and national exports.”

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The American University in Cairo (AUC) was founded in 1919 and is major contributor to the social, political and cultural life of the Arab Region. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions, and study abroad programs. An independent, nonprofit, apolitical, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the United States.

D-Kimia develops novel diagnostic solutions to detect a broad range of diseases by targeting the nucleic acid signature of the disease. Our diagnostic solutions are rapid, affordable, simple to use, and provide the same level of specificity as the most advanced Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and other amplification- based diagnostic techniques. D-Kimia’ patent pending platform has initially been optimized for the identification of the Hepatitis C virus. The platform provides rapid, accurate and affordable results without expensive and complicated lab equipment.