This article has been updated from a previous version to include comments from a Life Tech scientist.
By Ben Butkus
Life Technologies said this week that it has acquired Matrix MicroScience, a UK-based manufacturer of large-volume, automated sample prep systems and consumables for food safety testing.
Matrix MicroScience's technology will be added to Life Tech's existing food-borne pathogen detection workflow, and has the potential to reduce the cost of testing by more than half and speed up time to result by hours or days in some cases, Nir Nimrodi, head of Animal Health and Food Safety for Life Technologies, told PCR Insider.
Life Tech did not disclose financial details of the acquisition.
The key technology Life Tech gains in the deal is Pathatrix Auto, a benchtop sample-prep instrument that isolates and concentrates target bacteria in food samples at high volumes with walkway automation.
According to Matrix MicroScience's website, Pathatrix Auto is based on patented recirculating immunomagnetic separation, or RIMS, technology, which uses antibody-coated paramagnetic particles to selectively bind and purify target organisms from a range of complex matrices.
Recirculating the sample over a capture phase comprising immobilized antibody-coated magnetic beads increases the sensitivity of the capture; and a high-volume wash enables efficient removal of the sample matrices, non-specific microorganisms, and PCR inhibitors, according to the company.
"The beauty of the Pathatrix system is that it is the only system that allows you to run 50 mL of crude sample," Nimrodi said. "Basically after you run the pre-enrichment, you can start with a very large volume [of] 50 mL, when most other systems are working with up to 1 mL."
"Let's say you start with 375 grams of beef, and you want to test it for E. coli, you're going to put it in a medium … and pre-enrich the sample, and sometimes it can take anywhere from 14 or 15 hours to as much as two days," Nimrodi added.
Starting the pre-enrichment process with 50 mL instead of 1 mL can cut in half the time required for pre-enrichment. "This is huge, because you can bring many of the workflows used today from more than a day to less than eight hours," Nimrodi added. "We're not aware of any other ... technology that can do that."
In addition, the Pathatrix Auto system enables pooling of up to 10 samples, which is something that many competing systems claim but few can do without compromising sensitivity, according to Nimrodi.
As such, customers "run one test rather than 10 separate tests. The value then is not only in time saved, but in reducing the price they pay per sample."
Life Tech said that the Pathatrix Auto system is designed to work in conjunction with reagent kits that isolate a variety of pathogens, including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Cronobacter, and Campylobacter – organisms for which Life Technologies currently manufactures real-time PCR detection kits for use on the company's real-time PCR instruments.
Life Tech also currently sells its own food-testng sample prep kit called PrepSEQ for use in front of its PCR-based food testing products.
The procedure combines a method for disrupting difficult-to-lyse samples with PrepSEQ nucleic acid extraction technology. PrepSEQ uses a simple spin column protocol to remove PCR inhibitors prior to PCR-based testing. It also uses microspherical paramagnetic beads to isolate and purify nucleic acids.
The Pathatrix Auto system would operate upstream of Life Tech's PrepSEQ kits to purify the organism prior to nucleic acid sample prep.
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