04 Feb OpGen Creates Map of World’s Most Lethal Fungus
Madison, Wis.– The world’s most common lethal fungal infection is caused by a mold called Aspergillus fumigatus. Strains put transplant, leukemia and HIV/AIDS patients at serious risk. OpGen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison spinout, has created a whole genome map of this fungal pathogen that will help a consortium of international researchers to find new therapeutics to treat this, and other deadly infections. The company believes their technology will lead to major breakthroughs in medical research, diagnosis and treatment.
Research on this source of infection dates back to England in 1842 and the first fatal infection was described in 1953. Less serious strains of the mold have been identified as the cause of allergies and sinus infections. OpGen’s DNA optical analysis technology generated massive volumes of data that will allow scientific and medical researchers from the United Kingdom, United States, France and Spain to study the complete genome sequence of this organism at a greatly increased speed and reduced cost.
“OpGen’s whole genome map gave us the ability to put everything together, allowing our team to view all of the pieces of the chromosomes as a whole unit,” said William Nierman, consortium member and investigator with The Institute for Genome Research. “Because of the nature of this global project, we thought we would have to expend a great deal of money trying to link all the parts together and were faced with the possibility that it might not have worked. With OpGen’s help, we were able to link all of the sequence contigs into whole chromosomes in a very cost efficient manner.”
According to Colin Dykes, chief scientific officer of OpGen, the creation of an optical genome map is an alternative to a costly and time consuming cloning strategy that could takes months.
“All the data was collected on a Friday from a DNA sample, captured on specialized glass chips, and processed over a weekend. We created 300 different over-lapping maps which reduces errors,” Dykes said.
Professor David Schwartz, OpGen’s founder, developed the technology along with his scientific team at UW-Madison. “This is equivalent to mapping the human genome three times over,” Schwartz said.
Breakthrough will lead to personalized medicine
The current commercial application of OpGen’s technology follows the company’s December 2003 announcement of a genome database that could be used to identify biological agents that could be used for bioterrorist attacks.
According to Dykes, OpGen’s technology can also be used to study the history of a disease and analyze the genomic differences. He believes that optical DNA mapping is a step toward human genome analysis and that it proves the value of genome sequencing technology, which will lead to breakthroughs in medical technologies and treatments.
“We are well on the way to achieving the capacity to perform genome mapping in large human populations” Dykes said. “We will be able to compare many genomes to discover why some people respond differently to medications and therapies. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs are reported to kill around 100,000 patients each year in the United States making it the sixth leading cause of death.This powerful technology will speed the development of personalized medicine.”
“OpGen’s number one goal is to revolutionize pharmacogenomics and the development of novel diagnostics products,” Dykes added. “We are on track to perform our first human research studies by summer and commercial pharmacogenomic studies by the end of the year.”