As a student at UCLA doing research on organ-tissue matches three decades ago, George Ayoub found a match for himself.

One of his professors, Paul Terasaki, developed the first widely used test for matching organ donors and recipients. Ayoub wound up working in Terasaki's lab on campus and the two later formed the company that grew out of their work, One Lambda Inc.

Last year, revenues at the Canoga Park-based company surged 33 percent, to about $60 million, thanks to the role its tests play in bone marrow transplants. "Thousands of people undergo these procedures and it makes such a difference to each of their lives," said Ayoub, who is chief executive. "We want to be pioneers and always ahead of everyone else in this game."

Terasaki, who is chairman and principal owner of One Lambda, first got involved in the field of tissue-matching (called histocompatibility) in 1964, when he developed a test that was accepted as the international standard for tissue-typing. The procedure determines the compatibility of tissue from organ donors and recipients.

Precise tissue matching is vital in transplant procedures to prevent organ rejection and other complications. Terasaki's test used blood serum, the clear liquid that can be separated from blood and contains its antibodies, to isolate 200 different factors to measure a match.

When Ayoub was a UCLA undergraduate in the 1970s, a Food and Drug Administration grant that funded Terasaki's early work had run out. The researcher kept the work going by selling serum-typing trays to laboratories, while Ayoub developed an interest in the area, co-authoring about 20 research papers.

The testing method, called human leukocyte antigen typing, was eventually deregulated and the process was commercialized. The pair saw an opportunity in forming their own company to sell test kits to laboratories and hospitals.

Ayoub and Terasaki took out personal loans to found One Lambda, starting with six employees who did everything from research to labeling to quality assurance. Sales at the end of the first year were about $2 million.

At first, One Lambda specialized in serology-based typing trays, but the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the then-Soviet Union raised the standards for tissue typing.

Victims of Chernobyl needed bone marrow transplants, which required more sophisticated tests of DNA than simple serum testing provided. Researchers saw that DNA testing, which compares eight times the number of antibodies as serum testing does, could be used for diseases like leukemia that also attack the bone marrow and for more precise testing for organ transplants like the heart or kidneys.


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