U.S. patent awarded for diagnostics technology enabling fast DNA sequence identification

JANUARY 19, 2009--The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has received a U.S. patent for a diagnostic technology that can rapidly and accurately screen for organisms such as bacteria and other infectious agents. Lighthouse Biosciences, LLC is the exclusive worldwide license holder of the technology. Both URMC and Lighthouse are based in Rochester, NY.

The company's technology platform, called NanoLantern, is designed to identify genetic sequences from biological samples--a process that can be used to detect any organism or genetic feature by identifying its unique DNA fingerprint. NanoLantern consists of an array of DNA probes that can be programmed from a database of known genetic signatures to simultaneously screen for multiple individual targets using a single sample of blood, urine, cells, or other substance with organic content. The U.S. patent is being awarded for the process the technology uses to identify DNA sequences. The method, first developed by University of Rochester scientists in 2003, promises to be faster and more precise than other existing models.

The patent "addresses a breakthrough method that will allow the company to design and make at a low cost a very wide range of probes for the detection of most pathogens," said Lighthouse CEO Rand Henke.

The company is now developing a prototype that consists of a series of disposable "lab on a chip" biosensor cartridges to be housed in a workstation that can be deployed in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, doctor's offices, and nursing homes.
While the technology has a wide array of potential applications in healthcare, agriculture, food safety, water quality, and national security, Lighthouse Biosciences is initially focused on the field of hospital-acquired infections (HAI). Despite extensive efforts in recent years to address the causes, HAI remain a massive burden on the U.S. health care system with more than 1 million annual cases and 90,000 associated deaths, all at a healthcare cost of $5.7 billion per year in the U.S.

A key challenge in combating HAI is identifying infections as early as possible. The current standard is to send potentially infectious samples out to a clinical laboratory for analysis and wait for the results. This process typically takes up to 2 to 3 days. NanoLantern has demonstrated the ability to provide results within 15 minutes at the point of care.

More information:
University of Rochester Medical Center
Lighthouse Biosciences, LLC

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com.

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