Johnny on the spot: 10,000-spot protein array biochips might soon be a reality

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BOTHELL, Wash.—July 17, 2007—Given the success of its bioscience division, nanotechnology specialist Lumera Corp. announced it would spin-off the division as the wholly owned subsidiary Plexera Bioscience LLC. The new company will be led by Dr. Joseph Vallner, as chair and CEO, and current division manager Dr. Tim Londergan, as president and COO. According to Tom Mino, Lumera president and CEO: "The formation of Plexera clarifies the purpose, business requirements, and market opportunities of both Plexera and Lumera to our investors, customers, and prospective partners."
BOTHELL, Wash.—The dream of a "whole-proteome" biochip is getting closer now that nanotechnology company Lumera Corp. has partnered with Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Harvard Institute of Proteomics, a division of HMS.
Under the terms of the January agreement, Lumera and HMS will develop a next-generation biochip that combines Lumera's NanoCapture technology with HMS's nucleic acid programmable protein arrays (NAPPA) methodology. The organizations believe that they can thereby create a 10,000-spot very high density protein array.
Such a feat would, of course, be a boon for drug discovery and life science research in terms of significantly increasing the speed of work. Using current research methods and materials, array densities of up to about 800 spots are the upper limit. Also, the new biochip is expected to increase the sensitivity and throughput of the NAPPA technology by increasing the number of features on the array without sacrificing the amount of protein produced per feature. This would sidestep typical costs and technical difficulties involved in printing protein arrays one protein at a time.
"The 10,000-spot biochip is a very important step towards our ultimate goal of producing a whole-proteome biochip," says Joshua LaBaer, director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics. "As we increase spot density, we are able to gather more data about proteins from a single experiment."
Financial terms were not disclosed, but HMS and Lumera have reported that they will share rights to jointly developed intellectual property. The collaboration is set to last one year and has been a work in progress since mid-2005.
"We have been working with Harvard since May of 2005," notes Dr. Helene Jaillet, director of investor relations for Lumera. "They are a world-class opinion leader in terms of proteins, and when you are involved with a disruptive and emerging field like proteomics, you want to be involved with an organization of that caliber. We're happy we were finally able to get a collaboration deal put to bed. The scientists were getting along great; we just had to let the lawyers get done dotting their I's and crossing their T's."
"Professor LaBaer's work on protein arrays at the Harvard Institute of Proteomics has been substantial and we believe is revolutionizing proteomics," says Tom Mino, CEO of Lumera. "They have shown the NAPPA platform as an extremely useful tool for biomarker discovery in cancer and diabetes, as well as for cutting-edge homeland bio-defense applications."
Lumera's chip technology eschews glass, which is one of the reasons for the potential 10,000-spot chip. The basic chip is a silicon substrate, but it has a polymer coating that is both hydrophilic and hydrophobic.
"With water-attracting and water-repelling features, we can keep samples very discrete and that's why you can increase the number of spots so much," Jaillet explains. She reports there is still a way to go, with Lumera and HMS so far achieving around 1,000 spots. Lumera and HMS expect to reach 10,000 spots, though, within the time frame of the one-year collaboration currently in place, she says.
The Harvard Institute of Proteomics' protein array technology, NAPPA, was first published in the July 2004 issue of the journal Science. NAPPA starts with a printed cDNA array and generates a self-assembled protein array using a combination of chemistries and biological methods. A cell-free expression mix produces proteins from the printed genes. The resulting expression product is immobilized on a surface capture system providing for fresh, easily definable, protein arrays made directly from cDNA libraries, and easily printed with commonly available equipment and methods. The arrays can be stored and easily handled, very much like today's commonly used expression arrays. Protein is produced and captured only when the user is ready to use the array.

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