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Technology Spotlight: NIST

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology is ramping up its technology transfer efforts by implementing a twist on its traditional SBIR program in which it is asking small businesses to propose commercialization plans for NIST technologies, and awarding grants based on those proposals (see related story, this issue).
 
Although a large portion of NIST’s technologies are in the area of general measurement techniques, mechanics, chemical engineering, microfluidics, and nanotechnology, the agency said that many of its patents are building blocks for biomedical research tools.
 
Following are several notable NIST patents with application in the life sciences as culled from the NIST Office of Technology Partnerships. The entire database of technologies available for licensing from NIST can be searched on the agency’s website.
 
 
Technology: Microfluidic flow-through immunoassay for simultaneous detection of multiple proteins in a biological sample
 
IP status: US patent pending
 
Inventors: Nicole Morgan, Michael Gaitan, Laurie Locascio, Terry Phillips, Thomas Pohida, Paul Smith
 
According to its abstract, this patent application is for microfluidic devices to be used preferably for high-throughput, multi-analyte, affinity capture and detection of affinity-bindable analytes in biological fluids. Particularly, the devices can be used for immunoassays of biological fluids using multiple antibodies for capture and detection of multiple analytes, including proteins. The devices can also be used for the simultaneous isolation and quantization of multiple proteins from microliter samples of biological fluids. The patent application also describes methods for detecting and, optionally, quantifying affinity-bindable analytes in biological fluids using the devices.
 

 
Technology: Combinations of calcium phosphates, bone growth factors, and pore-forming additives as osteoconductive and osteoinductive composite bone grafts
 
IP status: US patent pending
 
Inventor: Francis Wang
 
According to its abstract, this patent application is for a moldable, resorbable composite bone graft consisting of calcium phosphate cement, an aqueous medium, and biodegradable polymer microspheres or other porogens. The bone graft is osteoconductive; i.e., the degradation of the microspheres or other porogens leads to macropores that facilitate the growth of osteoblasts into the bone grafts. The rate of this degradation can be controlled such that the formation of macropores is in tune with the ingrowth of osteoblasts. Additionally, growth factors or other bioactive agents can be incorporated into the bone grafts by adding them to the liquid component of the grafts or encapsulating them in a biodegradable porogen and adding this to the solid component of the bone grafts, or both. The release patterns of the growth factors are modulated by varying the volume fraction and the dissolution rate of the pore-forming particulates, which are biodegradable polymer microspheres or other watersoluble particles, the patent application states.
 

 
Technology: Surface charge modification within preformed polymer microchannels with multiple applications including modulating electroosmotic flow and creating microarrays
 
IP status: US patent no. 6,982,026 issued
 
Inventors: Timothy Johnson, Emanuel Waddell, David Ross, Laurie Locascio
 
According to its abstract, this patent describes a method for modifying performed channels fabricated in a variety of substrate materials including PMMA. The method involves exposing a portion of a fluid flow channel to light at a fluence and wavelength that modifies the surface charge of the substrate at the exposure site. The method can be used to modulate electroosmotic flow in channels or to immobilize chemical compounds or biological species in the fluid flow channels at the modified surfaces. The method can also be used to fabricate or modify microfluidic systems, the patent’s abstract states.
 

 
Technology: Electrophoresis gels
 
IP status: US patent no. 6,203,680 issued
 
Inventor: Kenneth Cole
 
According to its abstract, this patent protects an electrophoresis apparatus and electrophoresis methods employing gellan gum-based gels with divalent metal cation and diamine cross-linking agents. The gels are reversible under conditions that do not damage the biomolecules separated using the gels. The patent also describes gellan gum-based gels which are cross-linked and employ a diamine cross-linking agent.
 

 
Technology: Immobilized biological membranes
 
IP status: US patent no. 5,919,576 issued
 
Inventors: Sek Wen Hui, Anne Plant, Madhusudhana Rao
 
According to its abstract, the patent protects a functional immobilized biological membrane that consists of a support structure, a metal layered onto a surface of the support structure, an alkanethiol monolayer assembled onto the metal, and a biological membrane deposited on the alkanethiol monolayer. The patent also describes a method of producing the immobilized biological membrane. Uses of the biological membrane include as a sensing indicator in a biosensor, an adsorbent in a chromatography system, and a coating for medical devices, the abstract states.
 

 
Technology: Rapid fluorescence detection of binding to nucleic acid drug targets labeled with highly fluorescent nucleotide base analogs
 
IP status: US patent no. 6,743,586 issued
 
Inventors: John Marino, James Stivers, Karen Lacourciere
 
According to its abstract, the patent protects a method of identifying ligands that interact will cellular processes involved in the life cycle of HIV. In particular, an oligonucleotide, corresponding to a specific RNA sequence within an infected cell is modified by the substitution of 2-aminopurine. As a result, interactions between the oligonucleotide and the ligand can be measured via fluorescence. This technique can be use to find inhibitors of binding between rev and its response element, dimerization initiation sequences, and topoisomerases and DNA, the abstract states.