Breanna de Vera is dot.LA's editorial intern. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California, studying journalism and English literature. She previously reported for the campus publications The Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media.
HYCOR Biomedical can test whether people are allergic to everything from bees to nuts. But the Garden Grove-based diagnostic company is expanding their research and development capacity into less common areas.
Every year, 200,000 Americans land in the hospital due to allergies. And the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies annually.
Last month, the company, led by president and chief executive Dr. Fei Li, closed a Series B round. Li declined to disclose the investors, but said the nearly four-decade-old company is attempting to catapult itself past leaders in the allergy diagnostic field such as Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher.
"They have about 70% of the marketshare worldwide. But their product is really dated — it launched in the early 1980s," said Li. She believes HYCOR's NOVEOS system, which was approved by the FDA in 2019, will put it ahead of competitors.
The NOVEOS instrument, which looks like a large, inconspicuous gray box, is loaded with patient blood samples by doctors and runs allergy tests on the samples. The process is entirely automated, so doctors can tend to other matters while waiting for results.
Li said small biotech companies for years have been at a disadvantage to large companies like Thermo Fisher because the allergen field is so labor intensive. The sheer number of allergens that need to be researched and tested often can't be handled by smaller labs. But, she said, the NOVEOS requires less blood, enabling more samples to be analyzed quicker. It's also a big plus when testing pediatric patients.
"Allergy is a little bit different. People are allergic to so many different things," said Li. "The entry barrier is really high. So over all these years, not only was the company developing a new platform, but at the same time the company is developing hundreds of assays on the platform."
Each individual assay tests an allergy to a different substance, and according to Li, HYCOR had to redevelop over 800 different assays.
HYCOR was founded in 1982, with a focus in developing diagnostic tools to detect allergies and autoimmune diseases. While its legacy product, the HYTEC 288 Allergy Platform, was profitable, the company decided to redesign its product in 2011, to keep pace with emerging technologies. At the same time, Thermo Fisher acquired a leading allergy diagnostic company, Phadia, for about $3.5 billion, and became the dominant in the allergy diagnostics field.
In the past year, HYCOR has pivoted its distribution focus slightly to help combat the pandemic. The company assisted with distribution of COVID-19 PCR testing kits made by NaGene Diagnosis.