On the right track: Ottawa’s STACS DNA lands major investment from U.S. software firm

Jocelyn Tremblay
Jocelyn Tremblay

An Ottawa company that helps law enforcement agencies, hospitals and medical laboratories track samples of blood, saliva and other bodily fluids collected from patients and crime scenes has received a cash infusion from a U.S. health-tech firm to fund its southern expansion push.

STACS DNA said Tuesday that InVita Healthcare Technologies has acquired a majority stake in the company in a deal that closed earlier this month. Further financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

STACS president and chief operating officer Jocelyn Tremblay said the new investment will give the bootstrapped 35-person firm the financial backing it needs to scale up in the U.S. market.

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“We needed to find the right partners to really bring the company to that next level where we could actually fully exploit those assets that we have,” he said in an interview with OBJ on Tuesday afternoon. “We didn’t have the resources to do this.” 

STACS got its start in the late 1990s when the RCMP approached IT services firm Anjura Technology for software to support its DNA bank. The resultant commercial software was later spun off into a new separate venture.

RCMP, FBI major customers

STACS’s flagship system allows sexual assault survivors to discreetly track the location and status of their testing kits and lets police officers and lab workers keep tabs on samples of blood, saliva and other materials, notifying them when the specimens arrive at their destination.

For most of the past two decades, the firm has targeted its software at law enforcement agencies. In addition to the RCMP, its customers now include the FBI, the U.S. Army and agencies in several U.S. states. 

Three years ago, STACS branched out into the health-care vertical, signing a deal with Newborn Screening Ontario to help more than 200 hospitals across the province track biological samples from newborns.

The firm’s app monitors specimens throughout the testing process as samples travel from hospital to lab and back again. Track-Kit, as it’s called, can help medical professionals flag lost samples, follow deliveries in real-time and achieve relevant diagnoses before a baby is discharged from the hospital.

Big upside in health-care market

While hospitals currently account for only about five per cent of the company’s overall revenues, Tremblay sees huge upside for STACS in the health-care space as genetic testing of DNA material expands. 

The firm landed pharmaceutical giant Merck as a client late last year and now works with health departments in several states, including Louisiana, Tennessee and Utah. Tremblay says joining forces with InVita ​– whose inventory and staffing management software is used in more than 600 hospitals and health-care facilities across the U.S. ​– will accelerate the firm’s growth trajectory.

InVita president and CEO Todd Collins said the Ottawa firm’s “world-class” suite of products will be a welcome addition to his company’s offerings.

“Incorporating healthcare and forensic DNA sample tracking into InVita’s offerings supports our mission to deliver the most innovative and comprehensive solutions for managing complex medical workflows to our customers,” he said in a statement. “We are proud to be working with the leader in this space.”

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