Ganor Fighting Biological Identity Theft

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur, even if in an entirely different industry. Elon Ganor of voice-over-Internet fame has changed focus to biotechnology with a new startup, Nucleix, which is devoted to foiling biological identity theft.

Nucleix, located in Ramat Hahayal, Tel Aviv, specializes in forensic DNA analysis for courtroom evidence.

The startup was founded a year ago by two scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science: Dan Frumkin and Adam Wasserstrom, personal acquaintances of Ganor's. They asked him to join Nucleix as a co-founder and as chief executive.

Ganor, 59, is a physician by training, and had set up a biotechnology startup called Virovahl, which he sold before getting involved with Internet technology at VocalTec. Virovahl developed peptide-based diagnostics technology for HIV.

Nucleix's technology is designed to answer a new problem that has arisen where medicine and law meet: biological identity theft. That refers to the ability to build, in laboratory conditions, synthesized DNA based on the real DNA of a person. Other people could use that fabricated DNA to create the appearance of guilt where none exists, for example by disseminating it at crime scenes.

Another problem that it aims to solve, the company says, is the inadvertent contamination of genetic material in forensic laboratories.

The startup's expertise lies in differentiating between artificial DNA and the real genetic code of the actual person. Until now there has been no technology capable of distinguishing between genetic profiles obtained from faked DNA and real biological profiles, it says.

Its assay technology, which has been described in the Forensic Science International: Genetics journal, is in advanced stages of development. Several patents have already been granted.

Frumkin serves as the company's chief scientist and has been asked to lecture on the topic at a conference this October.

So far the startup has been financed by private investors.

The company explains that its goal is to develop DNA authentication assays that can be integrated into the standard forensic procedure, to maintain the credibility of DNA evidence in the courts.

Ganor made his name mainly at VocalTec, a company that pioneered telephony over Internet. Despite the company's innovative qualities, it failed to become an industry leader. It began with great promise and went public on Nasdaq, achieving a market capitalization of nearly $1 billion at its peak. But when the entire telecoms sector sank into disfavor in 2002-2003, the company's value crashed too. In 2005, with only 30 workers remaining and very little cash in hand, VocalTec merged with another Israeli company, TDSoft.