Michael Zapata III, former chief executive officer of Triangle-based LIPSinc, which shut down in August last year, now leads ArrayXpress, a new North Carolina State University spinout, as interim CEO and chairman.

“We just got an agreement to use the intellectual property from NCSU,” Zapata tells Local Tech Wire. The company plans to offer complete microarray systems from initial design to final data analysis. “We’ll do the whole process or any part for clients,” Zapata says.

ArrayXpress already has signed clients for its services, which Zapata says the NCSU licensed technology does better than other current systems available for less money. “That’s why we built the company,” says Zapata. “We have a competitive edge in quality and price over other methods out there.”

The company is bootstrapped, funded by debt and customer payments. “We’re doing it the least expensive way,” says Zapata, “taking money from customers. Our objective is to demonstrate the model, get customers, then go out and seek venture capital with a solid pipeline and track record. That will really help us.”

Microarrays can put sophisticated analysis laboratories on miniature chips and automate the hunt for drug targets and compounds.

NCSU program spawns start-ups

Zapata says that NCSU provided considerable support as the fledgling company, incubating it through its HiTec commercialization program for the last six months. “Deals like this show NCSU’s commitment to help foster the creation of new technologies and new jobs.”

The HiTec program evolved from NCSU’s TEC program in entrepreneurship and management, in which graduate students use an algorithm to rigorously explore commercialization markets for technologies in development at NCSU.

ArrayXpress is the second company that evolved from the program that Zapata joined as CEO.

Founding director of the NCSU TEC program in 1995, Zapata left it in 1998 to become “head mouth” at LIPSinc, a TEC graduate company that developed and sold software to synchronize animated mouths with the words spoken. It based its software on technology developed in NCSU’s computer labs.

LIPSinc closed on $9 million in venture capital from a Belgian investment firm, Flanders Language Valley Fund, and Mellon Ventures of Atlanta in June 2000. It had 50 employees at its peak, down to 14 when it shutdown, unable to generate enough revenue to succeed.

Zapata left LIPSinc shortly before it folded last year and rejoined NCSU’s TEC program.

The since renamed non-profit organization was founded with a grant from the National Science Foundation, sustains itself partly on royalties from its graduate companies which include Raleigh medical diagnostics company LipoScience and the semiconductor company, Nitronex.

Expanding management team

ArrayXpress named two other fairly well known local executives to its management team. John Woodall is chief financial officer. Brian Schneider is VP of marketing. NCSU professor Len van Zyl, who developed the technology, is chief scientific officer. The company employs eight people, none full-time as yet.

Zapata says the company hopes to move into offices on NCSU’s Centennial Campus, where the university nurtures technology start-ups in an academic setting.

Zapata declined to name the early clients ArrayXpress signed but “one is doing a press release,” that should appear soon.