Biotech park draws in NY firm

Thermal Gradient tests DNA samples for diseases. Photos courtesy of Thermal Gradient.

Thermal Gradient tests DNA samples for diseases. Photos courtesy of Thermal Gradient.

A molecular diagnostics company based in New York is looking to become part of Richmond’s DNA.

Thermal Gradient is relocating from its current home in Rochester to a 10,000-square-foot space it has leased downtown in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park. The 10-year-old company develops devices that are used to diagnose infectious diseases and perform other tasks through testing of nucleic acid in DNA and RNA.

CEO Robert Juncosa said he selected Richmond for its comparable companies and proximity to Washington, D.C., where he said the company wants to pick up work for the Department of Defense.

“There is a much larger representation of businesses like ours (in Richmond) versus up here in Rochester,” he said. “The labor pool is better; the general atmosphere for businesses like ours is improved in Richmond over Rochester.

“Not that Rochester is a bad place. But we need to move to the next level, and being in proximity to businesses like ours is good.”

Robert Juncosa

Robert Juncosa

The company chose Richmond over Boston, San Francisco and Raleigh, according to the Greater Richmond Partnership, which assisted with the search. Juncosa said he reached out to the economic development group last October after first considering Fredericksburg for its proximity to D.C.

The company is currently moving its science operations to the downtown research park. Other functions will relocate over the next 12 months.

The company said it expects to grow from its current staff of three to as many as 45 employees over the next two years.

Thermal Gradient’s devices test samples from blood, hair and other material to zero in on nucleic acids to diagnose infectious diseases, detect cancer, conduct DNA finger printing, counterfeit product testing and biodefense, according to a company release. It is currently building a commercial prototype of a field-deployable molecular detection system that Juncosa said will be able to detect HIV from samples in less than 10 minutes.

“The thing that makes us special is that we do it extremely fast, where most tests of this type take one to two hours. We take one to two minutes,” he said.

Thermal Gradient is the latest out-of-town company to announce its plans to relocate to Richmond. In April, Brazilian candy manufacturer Mavalerio announced its first U.S. facility in Hanover County, and last month, U.K.-based manufacturer Detectamet set up shop at a space in Henrico’s East End.

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