Utah startup working on breakthrough medical technology

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2012 9:55 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah-based life sciences company is using technology to improve the way the health care industry diagnoses infections, all with an eye on becoming the state's next great high-tech success story.

Founded in 2005, Great Basin Corp. officially began operations on Nov. 1. The company develops testing to help doctors and hospitals diagnose patient illnesses.

"We view ourselves as an information technology company that happens to use molecular biology to gather the information," CEO Ryan Ashton explained. "Information really is what diagnostics is."

The company has 49 employees, including scientists, engineers and information technology professionals, Ashton said. He commented that the company plans to grow and develop a locally based manufacturing facility and generate $1 billion in revenue in five to seven years.

The market potential is there, and it will happen, Ashton said.

"Some (company) in this space will get to $1 billion within five years," he said. "We intend it to be us."

A graduate of BYU who majored in film, Ashton briefly gave the Southern California film industry a chance before a wife and new baby helped him decide to take an entry-level job at Novell in 1987.

He continued in his career in the technology industry and eventually became a marketing executive working for several Utah firms before landing at Great Basin as one of the founding principals.

Ashton said the company's vision is to make molecular diagnostic testing so simple and cost-effective that every patient will be tested for every serious infection, reducing misdiagnoses and significantly limiting the spread of infectious disease.

The company recently secured approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its first molecular diagnostic test for Clostridium difficile — or C. diff — a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

Great Basin's new test allows providers to not only diagnose C. diff infections, but also to determine a clear treatment path much sooner, which would likely lead to improved patient outcomes, shorter hospital stays and significant cost savings.

Ashton described Great Basin as a local company that has developed a simple yet powerful technology that allows health care professionals to provide highly accurate, multiple-pathogen diagnoses of infectious diseases in about 90 minutes. Previously, such results took days to obtain, he said.

The results are 97 percent accurate, Ashton added.

The next technology the company is hoping to bring to the market is a test to detect staph infections. That test is scheduled to begin FDA trials in February and could be on the market by October, he said.

"Long term, we actually see testing for flu being done at your local drugstore," Ashton said. "It's going to be a really exciting moment when flu season can be better managed."

That day is still a few years away, Ashton said, but it could be within the next seven years.

He said the major goal of the company is to develop testing methods that are effective, cost-efficient and simple to process.

"We want to get better information to physicians faster … so they can treat the patient better faster," he said. "That's really what we're all about."

Email: jlee@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS