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QBI Life Sciences snags $130,000 NIH grant

Madison, Wis. - QBI Life Sciences, a division of Quintessence Biosciences specializing in tools and reagents for life science research, has received a $130,000 Phase I award from the National Institutes of Health to create absorption profiles for early drug-stage candidates.

The significance of the grant is that it could help researchers and pharmaceutical companies predict the absorption of drug candidates by various organs quickly and more cost-effectively, which eventually could lower the cost of prescription drugs.

QBI will be developing a surface plasmon resonance imaging (SPRi)-based microarray assay together with fellow Madison life sciences firm GWC Technologies. QBI will contribute its PreserveX Polymeric Micelles, which extract proteins and lipids and immobilizes them in SPRi sensors, while GWC will add its SpotReady SPRi biosensor chips to analyze multiple levels of the components and their drug attachment.

QBI and Quintessence Chief Executive Officer Ralph Kauten said that the treatment is designed to help study the absorption qualities of medications, which must be absorbed through the stomach and intestinal lining to reach other organs. The profile will evaluate specific tissues and see how well the drug is absorbed.

"We have expertise in developing the reagent side of this product, and [GWC] has expertise in the instrument platform," Kauten said. "We'll develop the reagents, and they'll help us configure it to that platform. It's the two pieces together that result in the solution."
Kauten said the grant will be divided between the research and development staffs of the two companies. He added that the company plans to have the assay completed by the end of 2006.

QBI's PreserveX system recently was confirmed by an initial screening as compatible with high-throughput screening assays that are able to perform as many as 400 tests at one time. The system's compatibility was announced in June at the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics European annual meeting in Manchester, England.

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently released a report calling for researchers to improve the tools for evaluating the safety of drug candidates early in the development process. Early drug absorption profiling is currently incompatible with the existing instruments and hard to reproduce, and these are challenges that lower pharmaceutical success rates.

This is QBI's second award from the NIH in the last few months. In January, the company secured a $175,000 grant under the NIH's Roadmap for Medical Research. QBI is using the grant to develop a high-throughput molecular screening platform for membrane protein targets and to determine whether a library of molecules affect the metabolization of a drug.

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