By Ben Butkus
UK-based molecular testing firm Lumora has licensed its proprietary real-time bioluminescent assay technology to 3M, which will use it to develop and market nucleic acid test kits for pathogen detection, primarily in the food safety market, the companies said this week.
Based in Cambridgeshire, Lumora spun out of the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge in 2002 to further develop its firefly luciferase-based technology, called bioluminescent assay in real-time, or BART, which it couples with isothermal amplification techniques for various molecular testing applications.
Lumora has been developing its own molecular tests in areas such as HIV viral load monitoring and gastrointestinal infections, primarily for use in the developing world, and has been seeking industrial partners for this work. It has also been outlicensing the BART technology to companies interested in additional applications.
Although BART was originally developed for molecular diagnostics, Lumora briefly explored its use in food-testing applications, and in 2006 licensed isothermal amplification technology from BioMérieux to combine with BART for that purpose. However, in May the company raised £1.5 million (about $2.4 million at the time) in a Series B financing to help support a shift back to clinical diagnostics (PCR Insider, 5/26/11).
Now it appears that 3M will take the reins on using BART for food-testing applications. Company officials were not immediately available for comment; however, a spokesperson for 3M confirmed that it would be using the Lumora license in its pathogen detection business in the area of food safety.
"This is more than a licensing agreement, it is collaborative effort, applying all of our capabilities to help make them successful," Paul Weinberger, chief marketing officer at Lumora, told PCR Insider. Weinberger added that the company also has capabilities in bioinformatics, assay design, and lyophilization, among other areas that it can contribute to the 3M partnership.
"This is hopefully the first of several licensing deals that we'll do," Weinberger said. "We hope to build on this and get more world-class collaborators to develop and commercialize products with, particularly for clinical applications." Weinberger added that the company has not yet licensed the BART technology out for clinical or research applications.
3M's most publicized foray into the molecular testing space to this point has been its ongoing collaboration with Quest Diagnostics' subsidiary Focus Diagnostics, which has been developing PCR-based assay content for 3M's Integrated Cycler platform (PCR Insider, 10/26/09).
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