Out: microarrays. In: microspheres. Or at least that’s David O’Hagan’s gamble with Streamline Proteomics, a company based on multiplexed bead technology with uses in gene expression, building oligos, and protein analysis.
With about 11 employees in tow, Streamline’s getting ready to move to its new office in Ann Arbor, Mich. CSO O’Hagan’s technology is still in alpha version and “looks more like a science project right now,” he concedes. But tests have been positive and the beta version, which could be out next year, is supposed to be fully functional. And then the company will be ready for where O’Hagan, 36, hopes it’s going: “We intend on taking a large part of the microarray and current 2D-gel electrophoresis market.”
Sounds like a big plan for a tiny startup, but the technology may just live up to its hype. Beads, which are better for specific binding and can hold more than their planar microarray counterparts, are growing in popularity. And O’Hagan’s system allows for simultaneously using 10,000 beads, which he believes is more than any other company is using. Multiplexing allows for building 10,000 oligos overnight, exploring various splice variants of genes, and analyzing unknown proteins bound to the microspheres. O’Hagan argues that gene expression with his technique gives better results because it doesn’t rely on fluorescence for the bead addresses, minimizing background and improving chances of finding low-expression genes.
O’Hagan, who spent a few years as a staff scientist at Genomic Solutions and left to launch this company and finish his PhD in molecular medicine and genetics, says there’s more to come. The staff is working with microfluidics and microelectromechanical systems to enhance the bead technology. “In the future,” O’Hagan says, “we hope to miniaturize all of our products.”
— Meredith Salisbury