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Delaware draws expanding medical startup

CD Diagnostics looks at sites in NCCo for manufacturing

11:04 PM, Apr. 27, 2012, CORI ANNE NATOLI, The News Journal

The growth potential of startup CD Diagnostics seemed so strong that both Pennsylvania and Delaware were courting the company with grant offers.

On Friday, company officials said Delaware had won the courtship, and the medical testing firm will expand into space somewhere in New Castle County.

The startup, with a modest staff of 15, operates out of an incubator in Pennsylvania's Lankenau Medical Center. Its expansion plan calls for adding 170 employees during the next five years.

"Pennsylvania has a lot of support systems and has helped us early on, but my heart's in Delaware," said CEO Rick Birkmeyer, on the decision to expand the joint fluid analysis test company to Delaware.

"They (Lankenau) have been absolutely fabulous every time we've grown and have gone out of their way, but because we're looking at manufacturing, we are going out of this area," he said.

Birkmeyer is looking at sites in New Castle County to manufacture its joint fluid analysis point-of-care kits. The technology is much like a pregnancy test with an indicator for physicians to read. Fluid is drawn from a joint with a needle at the direct source of pain, a small sample is dropped on the unit and diagnosis results are determined on demand.

More than 17 million suffer from joint pain and it often is mistreated or misdiagnosed because of a lack of precise testing. Birkmeyer believes the firm's technology will be a great success with a trajectory perhaps even greater than that seen at Strategic Diagnostics, a Newark-based company he grew from a handful of employees to more than 150 that now is publicly traded.

"In the next month or so, we should have a building identified ... we're looking to lease," Birkmeyer said of the space, which will be 15,000-20,000 square feet.

The startup passed up a $275,000 grant offer from the Keystone State and instead accepted a $500,000 incentive from Delaware.

State officials are hoping he duplicates the success of Strategic Diagnostics in the 1990s.

"He has done it before in Delaware, and that's what makes it so compelling to us," said Patricia A. Cannon, who handled the courtship between the state and CD Diagnostics for the Delaware Economic Development Office.