News (from Edinburgh Research and Innovation)

University technology helps research reagent company develop life science research tool

  • 30 July 2009
University technology helps research reagent company develop life science research tool

An innovative research tool developed at the University is being utilised by a leading research reagent company to create products that will help life scientists to understand Cancer, Rett Syndrome and, possibly, other disorders.

Professor Adrian Bird in the University’s School of Biological Sciences has developed and validated a two-step process to separate ‘CpG islands’, based on their methylation status, from bulk DNA to high purity. Modification of mammalian DNA by methylation of the sequence CpG prevents expression of the associated gene, whereas clusters of non-methylated CpG islands keep the gene ‘open’. Such modification of DNA is crucial for the control of normal growth, with aberrant DNA methylation being extensively documented in Cancer and some neurological disorders.

Previously, no method was available to isolate non-methylated DNA. This technology has applications for basic and applied research, enabling a rigorous analysis of CpG island methylation status and the potential to identify therapeutic and prognostic targets that have been silenced during development and disease.

To make the technology available as a robust and cost-efficient kit obtainable by all researchers, it was necessary to find industrial partners to develop, manufacture and market the technology. The technology was patented and has been licensed by the University under a non-exclusive agreement to two leading research reagent companies. 

One of these companies was Active Motif, Inc., which applies a multi-disciplinary approach to create new and modify existing technologies in order to meet the current and future needs of life science researchers. Active Motif has already launched a product, based on the CpG technology.

Joe Fernandez, CEO of Active Motif, said: “The launch of the UnMethylCollector™ kit is an important step in Active Motif’s goal of accelerating discovery in the field of epigenetic biology. The availability of an assay that positively identifies non-methylated DNA with an efficient, easy-to-use protocol, and works with limited amounts of starting material, creates a great platform for discovery in a very exciting area of epigenetics.”

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