New Knox company has big plans for ORNL technology

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 7, 2001 Knoxville startup company QGENICS Biosciences is looking for big things from a miniaturized platform technology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to quickly diagnose disease, analyze DNA, proteins and other molecules.

The technology, a chemical separation method and device called the Molecular Comb, has numerous lab-on-a-chip applications, including environmental monitoring, point-of-care diagnosis and post-genomic protein research. Another application will be for high-throughput drug discovery, which is basically the process of using small chips to test thousands of potential drug candidates at the same time. The Molecular Comb boasts higher resolution than is available with conventional technologies and can be powered with a simple 9-volt battery.

"The holy grail in diagnostics is the ability to analyze a raw blood, urine or saliva sample, diagnose the illness and prescribe the appropriate treatment at the physicians office for pennies per test," said Chuck Witkowski, chief executive officer and president of QGENICS. "Such a device would save doctors and patients valuable time and enable more accurate, more effective treatment options."

In the area of drug discovery, the dramatic reduction in size means much smaller samples would be required, and that translates into decreased product and reagent costs, Witkowski said. Reduced size also allows development of assays or tests capable of performing thousands of chemical reactions in parallel a feat not possible with other techniques.

"This reduces the overall time needed to identify a potential drug candidate, which is the primary screening objective for pharmaceutical companies," Witkowski said.

The Molecular Comb has several important advantages over conventional techniques to perform screen drug candidates, according to Witkowski. First, the technology requires minimal power, so it allows for quick and accurate analysis of molecul

Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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