Confirm Biosciences founder corners instant drug-test market
ELIZABETH MALLOY, The Daily Transcript
If you want to buy a product that uses a person's hair to determine if he or she has used drugs, there's a strong chance you'll go through Zeynep Ilgaz' company.
Ilgaz, 37, is the president and chief executive of San Diego-based Confirm Biosciences, a company that makes drug-testing kits. The company's Hair Confirm is the only over-the-counter hair-based drug test on the market, and Ilgaz estimated the company has about 90 percent of that market.
"My husband and I work together," she said. "It's a family-owned business."
In some ways, Ilgaz and her husband have created a family of businesses. They first founded a test-kit distribution company called Test Country out of their garage 10 years ago after earning master's degrees at San Diego State University. Ilgaz said she and her husband chose SDSU because it had a good program, and because they wanted to go to school in a city where they could start and raise a family. For them, San Diego was a perfect match.
Her husband got the idea for test-kit distribution after learning about the business for a school project.
"We just saw the opportunity and we went for it," Ilgaz said.
After a few years of Test Country growing and succeeding, the Ilgazes decided to start manufacturing their kits and created Confirm Biosciences. The company creates test kits using technology licensed from others. While drug tests, including steroids, are their main products, they also make fertility tests.
Their products are manufactured both in San Diego and overseas, and sold all over the world.
"The instant drug-test market is very competitive," Ilgaz said. "The way we deal with that is we do a lot of international sales."
Confirm Bioscience and Test Country are closely related. They share office space and some employees in the Sorrento Valley, and Test Country helps distribute Confirm Bioscience's products.
In addition to running her company and raising two children, Ilgaz is an adviser to the National Institutes of Health commercialization assistance program and participates in the educational and entrepreneurial programs of SDSU, the University of California, San Diego, High Tech High and the San Diego Unified School District.
She initiated a corporate giving program whose beneficiaries include The Alpha Project for the Homeless, The McAlister Institute, San Diego Youth and Community Services, Teen Challenge International and Volunteers of America's Alcohol and Drug Services Center.
Ilgaz has received a number of awards for her business success. She was the 2008 recipient of the YWCA TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) awards and, in 2009, SDSU presented her with the Charles Lamden Rising Star in Business award.
She said her alma mater was vital in helping her and her husband get their companies off the ground.
"San Diego State has been very, very supportive," she said.