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Burnham Institute, Duke University Medical Center Form Metabolomics Research Pact

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The Burnham Institute for Medical Research and Duke University Medical Center said yesterday that they have formed a collaborative research program to use metabolomics profiling to advance personalized medicine.

The research agreement will establish an extension of Duke's Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Burnham's Lake Nona campus in Orlando, Fla.

The goal of the collaboration is to clarify the basic mechanisms of disease and identify biomarkers for disease diagnosis and drug action using metabolomics, in which tiny amounts of biological source material are analyzed to profile thousands of metabolites, Burnham and Duke said.

"Burnham and Stedman Center scientists will be able to exploit the power of these technologies to define disease signatures relevant to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases," Daniel Kelly, scientific director at Burnham Lake Nona, said in a statement. "Metabolomic approaches show great promise for identifying diagnostic markers that will aid clinicians in distinguishing disease patterns and in developing individualized treatment plans."

Project leader Steve Gardell, director of translational research resources and an adjunct associate professor at Burnham, told GenomeWeb Daily News that the agreement will combine the Stedman Center's metabolite profiling expertise, which is "exclusively" mass spectrometry-based, with complementary technologies at Burnham, particularly NMR-based methods.

"During the first year, there are going to be assay modules for metabolites transferred to Burnham from Stedman," Gardell said. Burnham "will look at complementary technologies, as well as a targeted versus global metabolomics approach."

He also said that the Stedman lab is currently equipped with gas chromatography MS and triple quadrupole mass spec and liquid chromatography equipment, though he didn't elaborate as to the suppliers of those tools.

Burnham and Duke also said that the agreement is expected to spawn collaborative opportunities with a larger set of scientists focused on metabolism, creating an opportunity to expand research capacity and develop new technologies.

"There is an [intellectual property] agreement in place, which is almost boilerplate for this type of collaboration," Gardell said, adding that he is "hopeful" that the research pact will generate new IP, "because that means we are doing it right."

Terms of the IP agreement would dictate joint ownership of jointly invented IP; and sole ownership by either Duke or Burnham for IP invented primarily by scientists from one of the organizations, he said.