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Bacteria Detective: PhyloTech's Chip Identifies Friend and Foe Microbes

Bacteria, which can thrive in places where humans wouldn't dare linger, can be friends or foes. Take E. coli. Some strains are harmless and settle comfortably in animals' lower intestines. Others take free rides in lettuce and end up causing kidney failure and other serious ailments for salad lovers.

A new San Francisco company called PhyloTech is setting out to offer what it claims is a speedier and more precise method of identifying the types of bacteria and other single-cell organisms in our environment. The technology could solve some of the mysteries of food- and water-related illnesses and also help with environmental-cleanup efforts.

PhyloTech, founded in May of last year, says Tuesday it has raised $1.2 million from individual investors and Seraph Group and Wavepoint Ventures. With the seed money, the company says it will start offering its services and develop other products.

The startup's technology comes from research by co-founder Gary Anderson, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. It won a spot on R&D Magazine's annual Top 100 technology awards in 2008, the same year the technology also grabbed the bronze at The Wall Street Journal's Technology Innovation Awards.

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