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Invitrogen and Signalomics agree nanotechnology diagnostics deal

By Wai Lang Chu , 19-Apr-2006

Invitrogen and Signalomics have agreed terms to develop nanotechnology-based laboratory approaches to cancer diagnostics in a move that is set to make the identification of tumours easier and quicker.

The collaboration aims to close the gap between diagnosis and therapy which has seen much of the focus in treating cancerous growths rather than an improvement in early detection rates which can significantly add to success and recovery rates.

The initial goal of the collaboration is to develop an imaging agent that can be used to identify colon carcinomas that may require surgical intervention.

This will be achieved by the development of nanocrystal reagents, which has the ability to enhance the identification of tumours in in vivo patient tissue by detecting the presence of a single cancerous cell - improving the ability to excise the tumour more rapidly and completely.

"Our technology allows us to label the signal molecules of a cell and then visualise cells with faulty signalling, such as cancer cells," said Christoph Block, CEO of Signalomics.

"This approach allows physicians and scientists to diagnose diseased tissue as well as design therapeutics targeted to the faulty signal transduction," he added.

Timely disease detection offers real advantages such as reduced need for expensive therapies, invasive procedures and potentially harmful imaging techniques.

However, the deciding factor could well be cost. Laboratories typically prefer low-priced concentrations rather than expensive, standardised, per-diluted reagents and are inclined to use traditional methods of H+E staining because of the comfort factor.

This trend is particularly prevalent in countries such as Germany where the market is largely price driven.

Cancer diagnostics tests are more expensive than traditional testing methods due to their higher technological content as well as improved specificity and sensitivity.

The agreement between the two companies has taken this factor into consideration, developing these nanocrystal reagents.

Signalomics has become prominent in the nanocrystal field, becoming one of the first to develop a nanobiotechnology-based in vivo diagnostics platform by coupling designer proteins with fluorescent semiconductor crystals.

These nanocrystal-protein conjugates, which are only a few millionths of a millimetre in size and are extremely photostable, can be targeted to faulty signalling proteins that are expressed in tumour tissue.

Once introduced into a cell, they can be visualised by applying a laser light of a specific wavelength, which makes the nanocrystal-protein conjugates emit light in different colours.

The colours of the light help to identify cells with faulty signal molecules and allow detection of single tumour cell in vivo.

John Miller, >Invitrogen 's senior vice president, Enabling Technologies said: "This collaboration allows us to leverage the unique capabilities of our Quantum Dot nanocrystals in the pursuit of earlier cancer diagnosis."

According to Clinica Reports, cancer is the second largest cause of death in developed countries, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 of all deaths. The financial costs of cancer are staggering, affecting both the individual and society in general.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated the overall annual costs for cancer in 2000 at $180 bn (€146 bn) in the US alone, with $60 billion for direct medical costs and the rest in cost of lost productivity.

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