Studying tissue samples under a microscope might not seem a particularly high-risk profession, but by some measures it's an unusually difficult and dangerous job.
Greg Krueger, vice president of sales and marketing for Ann Arbor-based Aquaro Histology, says histologists – who study the microscopic anatomy of tissues – might turn the crank on a tissue-slicing microtome half a million times per year.
"There's a mantra in histology that it's not if you'll have a repetitive motion injury, but when," Krueger says.
Aquaro recently completed a $9.8 million fundraising round that will allow the company to launch its first product, the Aquaro ASM, which Krueger says is designed to make that repetitive process "a little safer."
The Aquaro ASM, which stands for automated section mounting, automates the process of cutting cells from a tissue sample and mounting them on a slide. Vince Alessi and Nolan Orfield founded Aquaro, inspired by Alessi's college experience in a histology lab.
"Vince had to do thousands and thousands of slides, and he was always nicking his finger on blades," Krueger says. "He thought there had to be a better way, and he spent his time finding a better way to do it." The result of that search was the first iteration of Aquaro ASM.
Krueger says ASM is more revolutionary than it sounds. There have been other advances in histology, but cutting and mounting has been done the same way for the last 70 years with no major changes until now.
Since Alessi's first model, the company has refined the product based on feedback from beta testing. That feedback led to a switch from multiple buttons for inputting commands to a touch screen, and a change from storing slides horizontally to vertically.
The latest round of funding will allow Aquaro to expand its sales staff and research team, create add-on products, and send the latest iteration of the tool, now refined from that early feedback, to market.
"We expect to make our first sales before the end of the year," Krueger says.
This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Aquaro Histology.