AUSTIN, Texas—Through the University of Texas at Austin (UTAustin) and the UT Gyeonggi Innovation Program, Bucheon, South Korea-basedindustrial automation company Jungwoo F&B has been introduced toAustin-based biotech Bioo Scientific, and now the two companies will team up toimprove physicians' ability to make diagnosis and treatment decisions forcancer patients by allowing more sensitive analysis of microRNAs and peptidesin tumor samples.
The UT Gyeonggi Innovation Program, sponsored by KimMoon-Soo, governor of the Gyeonggi Province in Korea, is a three-year programto promote entrepreneurship, identify promising technology start-up companiesand introduce those companies to the U.S. market. The UT Gyeonggi InnovationProgram is being operated through the Global Commercialization Group unit ofthe IC² Institute, which is part of UT Austin. The overarching goal of theprogram is to help establish foreign collaborations in science andbiotechnology that create economic development opportunities for both Koreanand U.S. companies.
What got Jungwoo F&B this chance to connect with BiooScientific is its development of the Image Oriented Navigation Laser Microdissection Device (ION LMD),which is a novel instrument for enhanced imaging and precise dissection ofcells. Reportedly, molecular pathologists can take advantage of thiscombination of technology to provide superior laser dissection results.
"Jungwoo F&B was selected in an innovationcompetition—our market research indicated that it was a novel approach to LMDand could be an enabling technology for molecular pathology," says DonnaKidwell, the global program manager for the IC² Institute. "Our goal is to helpsuch technologies commercialize successfully, and create strong internationalpartnerships along the way."
Specifically, Bioo Scientific will work in conjunction withJungwoo F&B to develop kits for the ION LMD system, which is something BiooScientific has in abundance, including a line of NEXTflex Sequencing Kits offeringincreased sensitivity, flexibility and speed for next-generation sequencinglibrary preparation and the MaxDiscovery kits for protein extraction andquantitation. In addition, Bioo Scientific will use its expertise in reagentdevelopment and manufacturing to introduce kits for global microRNA profilingand for protein extraction for mass spectroscopy-based peptide analysis oftumor samples. Dr. Marianna Goldrick, senior scientist, R&D at BiooScientific, says the ION LMD provides significant technical advantages thatwill allow physicians and clinical researchers to bring the power ofmicrodissection into play for routine use in improving diagnosis and treatmentof cancer and other diseases.
Goldrick notes that some 400 companies entered the competitionfor this year's UT GyeonggiInnovation Program, with 20 of them having been picked early this year, Jungwooamong them. Apparently, UT Austin sees particular promise with the ION LMDtechnology.
"The idea of the innovation program is to help foment thesekinds of partnerships, but the university tends to step back pretty quickly,"notes Dr. Kevin P. Rosenblatt, director of the Center for Clinical Proteomicsat the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine in UT's Health ScienceCenter at Houston, who has interacted with Jungwoo for more than five years aspart of his work. "It's not that they forget about the companies or loseinterest, but the university generally needs to shift its focus to the nextround. But they've stayed involved with this because they clearly see greatsynergy here."
"What Bioo Scientific does is to act as a sort of middleplayer," explains Goldrick. "On one end, you have clinical guys like Kevin, andon the other end you have sequencing and bioinformatics. We get our hands dirtyextracting the nucleic acids so they can go on to the next-generationtechnologies or other analytics."
Once Rosenblatt realized Goldrick and the rest of the Biooteam had an interest in technology like the ION LMD, he was happy to help usheralong the relationship between Bioo and Jungwoo "because they have the kits andcontent to go with the instruments and really push the interest in it andacceptance of it."
The timing for this pairing is particularly good becausethere is so much interest right now in molecular-based biomarkers, Goldricksays. Rosenblatt agrees, and adds that the continuing evolution ofnext-generation sequencing technology also helps. "As it gets more sensitive,"he notes, "it's great to have laser capture for the specificity that isespecially important for quantitative biomarkers."
In addition to the growing interest in biomarkers, thecomplexity of cancer diagnosis and treatment also contributes to Goldrick'sinterest in working with the ION LMD technology.
"It's not just what cancer you have but what kind oftreatment you need," she notes. "You don't want the unnecessary side effectsand wasted time that go with getting a therapy that doesn't help you. We'retrying to eliminate that trial-and-error phase."
The ION LMD technology reflects the fact that laser capturedissection technology in general has matured from solely research value tobeing a legitimate diagnostic and clinical tool, says Rosenblatt, who inaddition to his other work is also an associate professor of molecularmedicine. "That was always the original vision for the technology," he notes,"but it's taken about 10 years to get to that point."