I recently sat down with Prakash Murthy, founder and CEO of Atonarp, a company transforming industrial and healthcare markets through digital molecular profiling.
Tell us about Atonarp.
Atonarp is advancing clinical diagnostics, life science research, and industrial process control through digital molecular profiling. We are innovating next generation mass spectrometry and multi-laser optical spectrometry platforms that harness the power of innovative technologies with advanced analytics to generate actionable results in minutes.
Our ASTON platform is a mini mass spectrometer that enables molecular profiling in semiconductor or pharmaceutical manufacturing, leading to higher throughput, improved efficiency, and reduced waste. Our ATON System delivers quantitative, multiplex diagnostic test results in minutes without traditional chemistry. Disease diagnosis and monitoring in real-time can improve outcomes and patient satisfaction at lower cost. Both platforms have utility in life science research in a variety of applications.
The Atonarp platforms allow characterization of thousands of molecules in parallel, from simple gases or chemicals in liquid to complex proteins as well as biological information from living systems such as cell culture. This is a new way to capture and interpret data and unlock actionable insights. Our goal is to establish the Atonarp platforms as the standard for industrial process control and in the clinical diagnostics space. So far, we have successfully commercialized the ASTON LyoSentinel to monitor freeze drying processes in pharmaceutical manufacturing and launched the ASTON Impact for semiconductor manufacturing process control. Our multi-laser optical spectrometry platform, the ATON System, is under development and in field trials with our partner in the dialysis market.
What problems are you solving?
In the simplest terms, our products deliver actionable results that inform time‑critical decisions.
The ASTON platform includes a portfolio of miniature mass spectrometers with proprietary software that enable quantitative, rapid gas analysis required in complex semiconductor manufacturing processes. The analyzer can withstand the harsh, corrosive gas environments that current metrology solution cannot. The ASTON platform delivers real-time, chemically specific actionable insights needed to optimize processes and improve throughput and yield. One tool can replace multiple legacy tools.
Unlike conventional lab tests, the ATON System does not use immunoassay or chemistry reagents. Instead, advanced lasers excite the molecules in the sample. Sensors collect molecular signatures from scattered light. The software reports the concentrations of each target in the test panel. Real-time results inform personalized treatment decisions for better outcomes, improved patient satisfaction and reduced costs.
Our first entrant in the diagnostic market will be in dialysis clinics. We are developing a portfolio of panels to inform the care team on dialysis adequacy, anemia, bone health, and nutritional status so treatment can be personalized for each patient.
Patients with end stage renal disease have lost their kidney function and need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. Most patients go to dialysis centers three times per week for three- to four-hour sessions to remove toxins and excess water from their blood. Side effects are common and many patients take hours to recover after a treatment session. The care team needs better tools to optimize dialysis prescriptions and personalize treatment for these challenging patients. The ATON System will measure toxins at the point-of care. Rapid results enable the care team to personalize the dialysis prescription and medications sooner, which means patients feel better and have more energy. Optimized treatment means fewer hospital days and lower costs.
What inspired you to start the company?
Back in 2004, I was working on a custom ASIC, which is an application-specific integrated circuit that's customized for a particular use, to enhance the image quality of the CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) sensors. We had to build many techniques to block UV/NIR light and also the cameras had limited resolution. That's when I thought about building cameras that can help us visualize molecular particles at high-resolution and scale. This required a breakthrough in lasers, optics, camera, and computing. Timing is everything in business – we had to wait until we realized a prototype and meet the right set of investors. Celesta – led by Nic Brathwaite, Sriram Viswanathan, Michael Marks, and Lip-Bu Tan, realized the potential of the technology and is one of the major investors in Atonarp today.
What is your background?
I am an electronics engineer by training, and I spent most of my career in semiconductor, systems, and software development. For the last 10 years I've been focusing on digital molecular profiling and medical applications.
How is it possible to use only light for blood diagnostics?
Vibrational spectroscopy is a powerful technique known for high sensitivity and detecting the differences in the molecular composition of materials. These techniques detect absorption when an electromagnetic radiation of a particular wavelength interacts with the chemical bond of any molecules. Spectroscopy has the great potential for non-contact analysis of various bio molecules without using any reagents or chemicals. The clinical diagnosis is a complex, expensive, and time-consuming process; Atonarp’s platform combines proprietary spectroscopy with its quantification algorithm which allows deep profiling of thousands of biomolecules in various body fluids including blood.
How can your technology help healthcare providers better identify the root causes to disease as opposed to the symptoms?
Access, quality, and cost are the three pillars of healthcare. Atonarp’s digital diagnostics platform democratizes healthcare by enabling frequent, population scale testing at a lower cost. It will be a paradigm shift for healthcare providers – as they can identify the onset or early detection of the diseases, which is highly important in treating the life-threatening chronic diseases.
How is your approach different from other attempts to remake medical diagnostic testing?
The major difference compared to conventional technologies is that Atonarp’s platform does not use any reagents to identify the target molecules and its multi-analyte. As a result, you can carry out some of the complex testing anywhere by any person and a single test can reveal/diagnose multiple medical conditions. Most notably, healthcare providers can create value by engaging consumers to more actively managing their health. This will help dampen healthcare spending growth—improving efficiency while also delivering greater efficacy and, patient and provider experience. Atonarp’s platform decentralizes blood analysis from labs to all POC (points of care) across the globe.
How can molecular profiling technology help amid the new push for contactless solutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are facing a major health crisis that is fueled by COVID-19 – we need robust diagnostics and therapeutics technology that is not hard-wired but flexible, adaptable, and digital. Thus, inexpensive and less specific techniques become more prevalent and can provide quick results. Atonarp is working closely with diagnostics companies to commercialize the digital diagnostics platform. You will see a host of new applications/products that are capable of diagnosing multiple diseases using a single test.
What’s on the horizon for next year?
We are entering the growth/product commercialization phase at Atonarp. We are seeing a growing demand for our product in Pharma and we are launching a new product for advanced semiconductor manufacturing. And our customers are now preparing to start the clinical studies for our in vitro diagnostics and novel non-invasive products.