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Baylor Taps Silicon Bio DEPArray Platform for Potential Use in Prenatal Diagnostics

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This story was originally posted on Dec. 1

Baylor College of Medicine will use Silicon Biosystems' DEPArray platform in research programs related to prenatal diagnostics and molecular oncology, the firm said last week.

Arthur Beaudet, chairman of the department of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, said in a statement that Baylor has been investigating methods to identify fetal cells circulating in maternal blood with an aim toward establishing prenatal tests based on a maternal blood sample rather than relying on amniocentesis to obtain fetal cells.

"We have had good early indications that we will be able to use the DEPArray technology to identify and collect the rare fetal cells from a maternal blood sample," Beaudet said. "Finding and collecting intact individual fetal cells could provide many advantages as we look towards possible diagnostic applications since, in addition to being better for the patient, it may help avoid many of the intellectual property issues associated with fetal DNA detection in maternal blood." He did not further discuss those IP issues.

Beaudet also hopes to apply the platform in other research projects that seek to characterize rare cells, such as those investigating circulating tumor cells.

The deal with Baylor is the second high-profile sale for Silicon Bio this fall. In September, the firm announced a similar sale to Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center (BAN 9/20/2011). Fox Chase similarly hopes to use the DEPArray platform to characterize CTCs.

Silicon Bio is based in Bologna, Italy. The privately held firm established a US office in San Diego last year (BAN 12/14/2010).

Silicon Bio's technology relies on dielectrophoresis, or DEP, to isolate and manipulate cells in a suspension matrix, which offers users the ability to control cells and microparticles inside a disposable cartridge. The firm's cell microarrays consist of a microelectronic-active silicon substrate containing control circuitry for addressing each individual dielectrophoretic cage. According to the firm, DEP cage sizes can be set to accommodate one single cell, enabling the individual to manipulate a large number of cells per array.

No further details of the sale to Baylor were discussed.

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