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Modular Bioscience Licenses Artificial Restriction Enzyme Tech From University of Illinois

NEW YORK – Early-stage biotechnology Modular Bioscience said on Tuesday that it has signed a definitive agreement with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for an exclusive global patent license to a novel artificial restriction enzyme (ARE) platform developed by researchers at the university.

According to a study published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology in 2017 by the technology's developers led by University of Illinois researcher Huimin Zhao, AREs are capable of recognizing and cleaving DNA sequences at almost any arbitrary site in the genome. In their study, Zhao and his colleagues used the AREs for DNA fingerprinting and molecular cloning of PCR-amplified or genomic DNAs, and found that they worked as efficiently as naturally occurring restriction enzymes, demonstrating easy programmability, generality, versatility, and high efficiency.

Modular Bioscience said it will use the technology initially to focus on synthetic biology, diagnosis of inherited genetic diseases, liquid biopsy, and the detection of infectious disease agents such as COVID-19.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Due to its unprecedented simplicity and programmability as well as accessibility, we expect AREs will become a powerful and indispensable tool in all restriction enzyme or nuclease-enabled biotechnological applications and fundamental biological research," Zhao said in a statement. "It is to molecular biology as the CRISPR technology is to cell biology."

By using this technology, added Modular Bioscience President and CEO James Zhang, the company believes it can "reduce the cost and timelines required for the various applications by a factor of at least ten."