27 Jun GWC Technologies obtains exclusive license from WARF
Madison, Wis. – GWC Technologies, a manufacturer of scientific instruments for researchers, has signed an agreement with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for an exclusive license to a new technology for protein analysis – which some believe to be the next field of endeavor for biotechnology.
According to GWC, the carbon-on-metal surface technology will allow the company’s imaging systems to generate data more reliably than other products currently in the market, and allow the company to develop assays that are important in drug discovery.
Company president and CEO Tim Burland said GWC will seek corporate partners to bring the technology to the broadest possible market.
GWC’s instruments currently serve the proteomics market, and help scientists understand protein function. Protein function is of interest in drug discovery and biotechnology research because proteins are considered central to how living cells are regulated at the molecular level.
“We’ve determined what the human genome issue is, and so now we take the next step now that we know the inputs into the biological processes, namely the nucleic acid and DNA, we’ve begun to monitor the outputs, which is the proteins,” said Grady Frenchick, an intellectual property attorney for Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.
“So establishing a connection between input and output is most certainly one of the very large areas to which the human genome information will be applied over the next several years.”
GWC’s new technology was developed in the laboratory of Dr. Lloyd Smith, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was the subject of an article published by lead author Matthew Lockett and colleagues in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The technology is designed to address a limitation of surface plasmon resonance imaging. While useful for detecting biomolecular interactions, the substrate on SPRs must be a metal thin film. While good in watery environments, the most commonly used gold-sulfer surface is susceptible to oxidation and photo decomposition, rendering it ineffective for things like on-surface combination chemistry.
Lloyd Smith’s lab coated the thin layer of gold with a thin film of amorphous carbon, which chemically works very much like diamonds. According to GWC, the carbon-on-metal surface, combined with GWC’s label-free array systems, will improve the quality of information that can be obtained in studies of protein function.
“The gist of it is that physically, we can do a surface plasmon resonance but we can use the chemistry of the diamond, or the carbon surface, to make our attachment probes,” said Stephen Weibel, director of engineering for GWC and a co-inventor of the new technology.
WARF has filed for a patent on the technology, according to Weibel.
GWC’s scientific instruments use a method of analysis called “SPR imaging,” which enables researchers to analyze many proteins at once. In addition, SPR imaging does not require the fluorescent tags or other chemical labels required by traditional methods of protein analysis. The fluorescent tags are the cause of problems such as the modification of protein function.
In contrast, experiments using the SPR imaging systems generate data that more accurately reflect protein function, according to GWC.
Weibel said consumable chips used in the company’s detection systems have relied on traditional gold surfaces, which are suitable for research labs. He said the new surface permits the development of biochips and chemical sensors that are used in medical diagnostics, environmental testing, agriculture, and food monitoring.
Weibel also said the new surface is similar to the coating technology used on razor blades. “Almost all the razor blades manufactured in the United States are coated with amorphous carbon technology to keep them sharp and keep them from oxidizing and so forth,” Weibel noted. “This amorphous carbon that we’re putting on the gold thin films is kind of like that.”
It is suitable for mass-spectrometry analysis of proteins and hopefully it will have an application in the area of interest known as protein-DNA interactions, where researchers want to know what DNA proteins bind to. “We make a DNA array on this amorphous carbon and we flow in the proteins and see where they bind,” Weibel explained. “Another thing we hope to do is attach proteins directly to the amorphous carbon surface and then you can do antibody antigen measurements.”
Roughly 50 percent of the GWC’s annual sales are international in countries like Canda, Japan, Australia, England, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. It recently named a new distributor in India.
GWC has received state grants and raised limited amounts of angel investment since its founding in 2000, and while it is quietly looking for venture capital, Weibel said it’s not a big focus.
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