Japanese venture company Precision System Science has invested $1 million in capital to form a US biochip subsidiary, Bio Strand.
Bio Strand, based in Pleasanton, Calif., is headed up by Donald Stimpson, a pharmacology researcher who worked on DNA chips at Abbott Laboratories and affinity membranes at Monsanto.
Stimpson and Precision System Science (PSS), which has built its business on a patented magnetic DNA extraction technique known as magtration, have been working jointly for several years to develop a new-concept DNA chip. Bio Strand is charged with commercializing the product, and plans to launch it to the market by the end of 2002.
“After two years of collaborative research, we reached the point where we could visualize the product,” commented PSS President Hideji Tajima in an interview at the company’s offices outside of Tokyo. “So we founded [Bio Strand].”
The developers aim to offer the chip at about 10 percent of current market prices. At first, they plan to target DNA, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), and proteomics researchers, but ultimately would like to market the chip to clinical drug and reagent manufacturers.
The concept of the Bio Strand chip is based on standard electrophoretic technology, but aims to increase sample accumulation by switching from a two-dimensional substrate to three dimensions.
In this chip model, hundreds of DNA fragments are simultaneously spotted along the length of a thread or film, which is then wound on a 2-cm-long core plastic helical coil pin. The strand itself is made of a proprietary synthetic fiber. According to PSS, anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 probes can be spotted on this strand, depending on the length of the string and the distance between spots.
“One advantage of the new Bio Strand chip is that spotting is carried out on a one-dimensional strand uncoupled from the usual spatial constraints of array formation,” company literature stated.
Once the strand is wound on the pin, the chip looks like a spool of thread. The chip, which is less than two centimeters tall, is then placed in a plastic tube in which hybridization and, subsequently, detection take place.
The density of the spots allows for faster hybridization and detection, bringing the time for the entire process, from extraction to detection, down to a maximum of 40 minutes, the company said.
Users can attach various kinds of fluorescent particles to the probe spots for detection, according to PSS.
The chip is being designed for use in proteome studies as well as genomic research, as PSS claimed it would be able to handle DNA, mRNA, proteins, and antibodies equally.
In addition, Bio Strand and PSS said they aim to jointly develop machinery to totally automate the process of spotting, hybridization, and detection.
Bio Strand is the third overseas subsidiary for PSS, (www.pss.co.jp) which launched its initial public offering on NASDAQ-Japan in February.