Trimega Laboratories: Avi Lasarow

The Trimega Laboratories founder on his revolutionary hair testing business

The judges at the 2008 Startups Awards were all in agreement when it came to Trimega Laboratories’ claim to the Best Use of Technology crown. The company uses human hair samples, mere millimetres in length, to test for drug and alcohol abuse. Clients include the UK judicial system, the RAF and most recently, one of the US’s top airlines.

Having already run a DNA testing firm, Avi Lasarow knew his way around the commercial laboratory-based industry. Many of the clients that had used his DNA service were also looking for a drug-testing option so he was confident of the demand for an offering in that sector.

“Hair drug testing has because a gold standard around the world for almost everything when it comes to determining abuse,” explains Avi. However, there were already a couple of UK companies offering the service so Trimega needed a USP. That niche came in the form of the world’s first commercialised alcohol hair test. “The research was already there for the test,” says Avi. “But nobody had brought it to market. With the help of UKTI that’s what we did.” 

The demand for a more accurate form of alcohol testing was certainly gathering pace. “If you look at the legal sector they require tests like this for things like determining if a parent poses a risk to their child. Testing alcohol via blood only tells you about the last couple of weeks, but hair can show a pattern of abuse over a much longer period.”

Avi used credit cards to get the venture off the ground with initial expenses, set-up costs and a website amounting to roughly £15,000. A small office at the Old Bailey was negotiated and Avi took on one member of staff. All initial lab work was outsourced, as was the firm’s sales operation.

The company’s first clients were solicitors which signed up within a month of the venture launching. The volume of clients and revenue has grown steadily since the launch and Trimega now operates its own laboratory in Germany where all the testing takes place – something Avi was grateful to have finally secured.

“A machine in the lab can cost anything up to …500,000 but we wanted to move away from being a marketing/sales company to having our own assets and credibility. With your own premises you have more control over the margins and the science.”

Avi is very proud that he’s grown the company organically and resisted the urge to seek investment up until now. However, he admits he may have to relinquish some equity further down the line for the sake of heightened progression.

For now however, Trimega is focused on continuing its healthy growth rate – 2008 revenue has come in at just under the £1m mark and as a result of licensing its technology in the US, the company now boasts United Airlines as a client.

Avi hasn’t got his exit strategy honed just yet though. “I want to grow the business to the point where it’s attractive to a buyer – that’s what entrepreneurs do. On the other hand the more cash we generate, the easier it is to develop other projects within the business, so that’s what I’m concentrating on right now.”

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