PAMELA offers possibility of rapid and early warning detection of prostate cancer

Hengelo 26 March 2004With prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men in many industrialised countries, a new diagnostic instrument offers the possibility of rapid and early warning detection and screening of this major killer. The three-year IST programme-funded PAMELA project aimed to develop a new analytical instrument that allows very fast blood analysis to determine the presence and amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) present, important for the follow-up of prostate cancer.

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The project's integrated microbiosensor system incorporated established surface plasmon resonance (SPR) techniques, but significant improvements led to the development of the first commercial imaging instrument called the IBIS iSPR, which has been subsequently commercialised by consortium member Holland Biomaterials Group via its daughter company IBIS Technologies.

In the analysis of an organism's protein complement, proteomics, SPR technology serves as a sensitive instrument to identify and quantify specific binding events to a target molecule and acts as a micro-purification and recovery system to provide material for further analysis.

This new instrument "detects interactions with the binding of bio-molecules, such as proteins and DNA, with the sensors", explained Gerard Engbers, manager of technologies for the project. What makes the IBIS iSPR machine innovative is the number of interactions that can be simultaneously detected. Gerard Engbers pointed out that the number of simultaneous interactions that can be currently done with SPR machines is around 8, while the IBIS iSPR's high optical resolution of 30 micrometre enables the simultaneous evaluation of more than 15.000 interactions on a single sensor. This gives a daily capacity of more than 2 million analyses per instrument.

The system operates with two monitors, one displaying the real time SPR-image of the sensor and the other for instrument control and presentation of the processed data. Fully dedicated software makes for ease of use, with the clear structure allowing basic operation without thick manuals.

The software provides full control over the interaction measurement, data acquisition, data analysis and also contains sensors modification routines including array spotting. Besides mass screening, the IBIS iSPR is a potential research instrument for every life science research laboratory, and can be used as an analysis instrument for combination with micro-structured surfaces such as biochips and micro-arrays for genomic, proteomic and drug discovery applications.

Commercialisation efforts are off to a good start, according to Gerard Engbers, with five units already sold by IBIS since the production line was launched three months ago. The forecast for this year is 10 to 15 systems, which cost approximately 96.000 euros each, and between 50 to 70 systems within five years. Gerard Engbers expected that IBIS will sell directly in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, while the rest of Europe, Asia and the United States will be handled by distributors, which the company is currently seeking.

"Currently the machines are being sold for research purposes to universities, academic hospitals and research labs for large pharmaceutical companies", he stated, and for the longer term the company plans to develop dedicated instruments for use in hospitals for diagnostics.

The PAMELA project consortium consists of nine partners including the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -Prüfung, Germany; Eurogenetics NV, Vlaams Interuniversitair Instituut voor Biotechnologie VZW, and Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (F.U.N.D.P.), Belgium; Universität für Bodenkultur Wien and Nanosearch Membrane Ges.M.b.H., Austria; Hoechst Marion Roussel BV, Holland Biomaterials Group BV, and Universiteit Twente, The Netherlands. More information is available at the PAMELA project Web site. Source for this article is the IST Results on-line news service.


Leslie Versweyveld

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