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Researchers awarded $3.2 million from NIH to pioneer advanced biomolecule discovery technology
Date:11/28/2011

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $3.2 million to a team of preeminent engineering, chemistry, and biology researchers to develop a highly efficient system of generating nucleic acid molecules, called aptamers. The technology provides an entirely new method of discovering and mass producing new high-performance aptamers for a broad range of applications, including next-generation disease diagnosis at the point of care.

Their system, called Quantitative Parallel Aptamer Selection System (QPASS), is a high-throughput screening (HTS) process that will pave the way to develop "instant diagnosis" devices, such as those that detect infectious disease or genetically test a person's response to cancer drugs.

"Our technology is the first step toward devices that could instantly test for HIV or H1N1 in the field or at the bedside, instead of wasting critical time and money waiting for results," said Tom Soh, professor of mechanical engineering and materials, and Co-Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Earlier this year, Soh and his colleagues at UCSB announced the design of a disposable chip that rapidly detects microbes, called a MIMED device. This new aptamer synthesis technology aims to make devices like MIMED chips ready for widespread clinical use.

According to the research team, QPASS solves aptamer discovery problems that have plagued the field for more than 20 years, such as an expensive and lengthy process, and stability of the molecules at room temperature.

"We are developing innovative new technologies that make each step of our process several orders of magnitude more efficient," added Soh. "QPASS will generate high-performance synthetic affinity reagents in a massively parallel manner to meet a growing need in labs and clinics."

Renowned biomedical researchers James Thomson and Lloyd Smith are collaborating with Soh to develop
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Contact: Melissa Van De Werfhorst
melissa@engineering.ucsb.edu
805-893-4301
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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