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Gyros and Affibody Agree to Jointly Develop Microfluidics-based Protein Array on CD Format

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Swedish proteomics companies Gyros and Affibody have begun a strategic alliance to jointly develop a microfluidics-based protein microarray on a compact-disk format, the companies said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Gyros and Affibody will share in revenues and development costs.

The array, which the companies expect to make commercially available within two years, will combine Affibody’s engineered capture proteins with Gyros’ microfluidics-based CD array technology, in order to allow researchers to test a sample against selected proteins in a single step.

“This is more than just another protein array,” said Maris Hartmanis, CEO of Uppsala-based Gyros. “Most other concepts just do the protein expression profiling, whereas we can start with raw samples, and profile on the CD, since we can integrate sample preparation into the process.”

Gyros, a spinoff of Amersham Pharmacia Biotech founded in 2000, has developed what it calls “microlaboratories,” microfluidics devices that perform sample preparation, volume definition, reactions in chambers, and other steps of the experiment automatically; and allow hundreds of simultaneous analyses to be performed in parallel.

In this microlaboratory, nanoliter volumes of the sample can be placed anywhere on the CD and the CD is spun to distribute the test sample into capillaries and chambers, eliminating the need for pumps or electronic propulsion of samples. The sample then flows from the center of the CD in channels towards the edge. Along the way, the samples go through the different stages of the experiment.

“This project has been worked on for ten years internally within AP Biotech before the spinoff,” said Hartmanis. “We created an enormous amount of intellectual property that showed that use of centrifugal force coupled to geometric and chemical valves had several advantages in terms of a microfluidics approach. Centrifugal force is a very powerful way of moving liquids.”

In addition to allowing for efficient sample distribution, the CD format allows Gyros to reproduce its master array for any set of experiments using well-established proprietary CD mass production technology.

Affibody, of Stockholm, has developed a library of special capture proteins called Affibodies that are designed to bind to specific target proteins, as well as to bind to surfaces. “While there have been significant difficulties in getting antibodies to bind on chips, we have solved many of the problems of binding to solid supports,” said Eugen Steiner, CEO of Affibody. The companies plan to provide custom-designed protein arrays for pharmaceutical and other customers, rather than off-the-shelf arrays.

Customers will also need to buy a special robotic CD analyzer device that transfers the samples from a microtiter plate onto the CD and reads the arrays, Hartmanis said. The analyzer will be available next year. The companies have not yet priced the arrays or the analyzer.

Affibody, which is currently in the process of raising $30 million, also has an industrial protein purification alliance with Amersham Pharmacia Biotech. Gyros has also recently begun a collaboration with Genecor of Palo Alto, Calif., to develop its CD microlaboratories for high throughput screening. Genecor will serve as a beta test site for Gyros’ CDs and robotic CD analyzers.

— MMJ

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