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NIH Seeks to Outlicense Peptide Nucleic Acid Tech to Visualize DNA in Dx Apps

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The National Institutes of Health is seeking parties to help it develop and commercialize nucleic acid detection kits for various pathogens using modified peptide nucleic acid technology for visualizing DNA, the NIH said last week.

The technology may enable a very stable diagnostic method to detect nucleic acids without using PCR, and has so far been demonstrated to detect anthrax, according to the NIH.

The licensing and collaborative research opportunity is being offered through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases' laboratory of bioorganic chemistry.

According to a description of the technology released last week by NIH, genomic detection technologies most commonly use DNA probes to hybridize to target sequences and require the use of PCR to amplify those sequences.

However, replacing the DNA probe with peptide nucleic acids, or PNAs, can greatly eliminate the need for PCR because PNAs bind to complementary DNA much more strongly than do DNA probes, NIH said.

In addition, PNAs are nuclease- and protease-resistant, and form very stable and highly sequence-specific complexes with DNA, the agency said.

The technology specifically describes a method of making pure enantiomers of trans-tert-butyl-2-aminocyclopentylcarbamate, or tcycp, and methods of modifying PNAs by incorporating tcycp compounds.

Potential advantages of using PNAs in diagnostic applications include a high level of stability, which makes the probes useful outside of the laboratory environment; and the fact that DNA binding can be seen with the naked eye, according to the technology's description.

In addition to anthrax, the agency said that the probes may be practical for detecting infectious agents such as avian flu, tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome, human papillomavirus, and HIV.

A US patent application for the PNA technology was filed in March 2009. The technology is available for licensing from NIDKK, and the agency is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize the technology. More information about the opportunity can be found here.

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