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Xanthon Gets Patent for Microelectric Nucleic Acid Detection Device

NEW YORK, Jan 15 – Xanthon of Research Triangle Park, NC, is well on its way to commercializing its microelectric device for directly analyzing DNA, RNA, and proteins after receiving its fifth patent Monday, said Carol Golden, the company’s vice president of research and Development.

The patent, “electrochemical detection of nucleic acid hybridization,” describes the device, which contains seven electrodes in each well of a 96-well plate. Four other previous patents cover the technology employed in the electrodes.

In the method, a DNA or RNA probe is placed near the electrode, and then a 1.1-volt potential is run through the electrode. If there is activity, the probe detects an electron charge released from a guanine molecule. The seven electrodes in each well allow seven different DNA or mRNA samples to be tested at a time. But the company recommends that researchers use two of the electrodes in each well to run controls.

This device “is designed to complement data generated from microarrays,” said Golden. “Our product is designed to fit into the drug discovery system, where [researchers] get interested in a subset of mRNAs [generated from the arrays], and where you want to look at the impact of a large number of compounds on a small number of targets. It is designed to bridge that gap.”

This method was invented by Holden Thorp, a chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the co-founder of Xanthon.

The device, which the company plans to have in beta testing at five pharmaceutical and biotech companies by the end of the year, will be  its first product, said Peter Heath, Xanthon’s chief financial officer. The privately-held Xanthon has been developing the device ever since its founding in December 1996.

“We believe our product will be attacking a niche in the drug discovery process that doesn’t have any direct competition,” Heath said. “We will be competing against PCR as well as other [technologies.] However the use of our product will eliminate the use of PCR.”

The method is designed to speed up DNA or mRNA detection because there is no amplification or purification required, said Golden. “It’s lyse and go,” she said.

The company just acquired a manufacturing facility and is outfitting the facility for manufacturing of the plate. The company plans to sell the microelectric plate to pharmaceutical and biotech companies and has not yet priced it.  

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