NEW YORK, Oct 25 – Just weeks after making a surprising debut into the crowded DNA microarray market, Corning has signed on a venerable public partner, MIT’s Whitehead Institute, in a $10 million, four-year research agreement to jointly develop gene expression analysis tools and other life science research technologies, the company said Wednesday.
The research will be conducted at both the Whitehead Institute and Corning’s research facilities in Corning, NY. Whitehead researcher Richard Young will lead a team of at least six to eight Whitehead scientists in their part of the effort.
Corning will have first right of refusal and potential exclusive license to any inventions that the Whitehead investigators develop with their research funds. The Whitehead researchers could, however, receive royalties for their inventions.
This collaboration follows Corning’s announcement in September that it would begin manufacturing high-density microarrays using its proprietary high-volume manufacturing processes.
The collaboration with Whitehead will help the $4.7 billion manufacturer of fiber optics, ceramics, cable, and photonic devices to develop the expertise in the life sciences arena necessary for successfully developing microarray technology, said Pro Bardhan, director of technology development and integration in Corning’s science and technology division.
“We looked at the area [of biology] and said, how do we go about getting to a world class state in a hurry?” Bardhan said. “One way was to ally ourselves with a research institution that had a significant reputation like Whitehead. They are a molecular biology powerhouse.”
Whitehead has already begun helping Corning in understanding the biology that it needs to put on its chips, but Corning hopes the research will extend further than simple chip biology. Second on Corning’s agenda “ is broadening the application of arrays so it helps us in creating a marketplace” for them, Bardhan said.
Young’s lab studies not only regulation of gene expression, but also its application in issues of immunity to human pathogens. He recently published article on biomedical application of DNA arrays in a July issue of Cell .
" My laboratory is particularly interested in how human cells respond to infection," Young said. " We intend to use technologies developed through the joint initiative with Corning to lay a foundation for better drugs and vaccines. Our investigators will focus on topics ranging from cancer and AIDS research to the battle against life-threatening fungal and bacterial diseases."
Not coincidentally Corning’s first microarray product is a high-density whole yeast genome chip; Young is also a worldwide expert on yeast.
By the beginning of the first quarter of 2001, Corning expects to roll out its first whole human genome high-density chips, which will have up to 10,000 clones on a slide.
Informatics tools for gene expression analysis could be down the pipeline in this collaboration, but they are not at the core of it.
“We are like a child,” said Bardhan. “We are learning to stand up and walk before we can run. We have undertaken the challenge of putting down these oligos or clones in an effective way, and are looking forward to finding simple ways for the products to be used.”