Advanced Phenotypic Analysis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 26, 2000
 
Contact:  Tim Mullane  
  Biolog, Inc.
  (510) 785-2564 ext. 319
 
Biolog is Awarded Phase II NIH Grant for Functional Genomics
 

Hayward, CA – Biolog, Inc. has been awarded a Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Health for further development of the company’s proprietary Phenotype MicroArray™ (PM) technology. The new grant provides $750,000 over two years.

The PM technology provides direct genotypic-to-phenotypic comparison capability. This can save crucial time and dollars in not only functional genomics research but also in drug discovery, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and agricultural biotechnology research.

The latest grant was awarded after the successful completion of work funded by a Phase I NIH grant in 1999.  Biolog used the grant to develop approximately 700 tests for the Phenotype MicroArrays. The Phase II NIH grant will allow Biolog to increase the number of PM assays to its target of approximately 2,000.

Barry Bochner, Ph.D., chairman and co-founder of Biolog, explains, “Tests are being developed using as model organisms two of the most important microbial species, Escherichia coli (E. coli bacteria), which is a procaryotic microbe, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast), which is a eucaryotic microbe.  Our knowledge of the function of most genes, including those found in human cells, is primarily by extrapolation from previous genetic, biochemical and physiological studies on these two microbes. The importance of understanding the additional 2,000-3,000 genes of unknown function in these model microbes cannot be overstated.”

The MicroArrays are run in a high-throughput automated system developed by Biolog called the OmniLog® PM. Over 24 hours, more than 450,000 phenotypic data points can be generated using the PM technology and the OmniLog® PM System.  “We are highly pleased to receive the Phase II grant so we can accelerate development of this important tool,” commented Tim Mullane, Biolog president and CEO.

The Phenotype MicroArray technology was envisioned and developed by Dr. Bochner. In a paper in Nature (Nature, Vol 339, May 11, 1989), Dr. Bochner described how advances in analyzing the expression of all the genes and proteins in the cell would lead to a need to analyze all the properties, or phenotypes, of the cell.  “That time is now,” Dr. Bochner said. “The avalanche of data collected in genomics projects is well underway. Complementary phenotypic data will greatly accelerate our understanding of the workings of the cell.”

In functional genomics, today’s researchers need easy-to-use tools to help determine the function of the genes being mapped.  Biolog’s PM technology allows researchers to directly measure the function using a gene knockout.  The PM technology directly measures the effect the genetic change has on the physiological properties of the cell.  This is done by simply comparing a control cell line with a genetically altered cell line in arrays consisting of approximately 2,000 phenotypic tests.

A second important application is in antimicrobial drug development. Just as you can directly measure the effects of genetic perturbations on cells, you can similarly measure the effects of chemical perturbations. An important example is assaying cell lines exposed to drug leads to determine their effects at the cellular level and to look for potential side effects.

In presenting the PM technology to researchers, Biolog has generated interest in drug discovery and agricultural biotechnology applications.  Observed Dr. Bochner, “In several projects, we have demonstrated that the PM technology can assay the phenotypic expression of gene knockouts. We have also demonstrated that the technology tracks and groups antimicrobials based upon their mode of action.”

Most methods being offered to researchers in pharmaceutical, agricultural or biotechnology companies provide two-dimensional array data from gene-chips or protein gels.  “There is an established need to analyze both cellular and molecular changes,” said Tim Mullane, Biolog’s president and CEO. “Not only can you analyze which phenotypes have been changed, but you can quantify phenotypes and determine when that phenotype is expressed.”

“The data generated by our PM technology provides a wealth of information unavailable in other methods,” he said. “For example, we offer two benefits to the drug discovery process: the ability to quickly determine the function of genes of interest, and, later in discovery, to analyze cellular affects of drug compounds before developers have committed to expensive pre-clinical studies.”

So far, Biolog has focused exclusively on microbial cells with applications aimed at infectious diseases and agricultural biotechnology.  The company intends to expand beyond this capability when it adapts the PM technology for mammalian cells.

Biolog intends to soon announce its first corporate partnership around this new technology.

Biolog is applying broad experience and an advanced technology platform to solve critical problems in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. The company expects to use these strengths to become a dominant provider of solutions in the growing area of cell-based research.  More information on the Phenotype MicroArray technology and other products is available from Tim Mullane, Biolog, Inc., (510) 785-2564, ext. 319, www.biolog.com.

 
 
 
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