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Collaboration in the Cleve

Just weeks after German pharma Merck KGaA closed on its $7 million acquisition of Millipore Corp., the bioscience research and biopharma manufacturing technology, tool and service provider—now operating under the name EMD Millipore—entered into a licensing agreement with the Cleveland Clinic for a method to rapidly assess tissue.

The method co-developed by EMD Millipore and the world-renowned hospital research center uses the immunohistochemistry (IHC) application of EMD Millipore’s SNAP i.d. Protein Detection System to stain and study patient tissue, and reduces the time it takes to do so from hours to minutes.

Launched in April 2008, the SNAP i.d. system uses a vacuum to actively drive reagents through membrane-fixed tissue sections, dramatically increasing exposure of tissue antigens to blocking reagents, antibodies and wash buffers. Traditional tissue staining involves mounting sections on glass slides and relies on diffusion for reagent permeation through the sections, which can take as long as 12 hours. But the SNAP i.d. system reduces this time to about 22 minutes, says Don O’Neil, director of product management at EMD Millipore.

“SNAP i.d. is a simple and elegant system that leverages our core competency in membrane technology development with some really cool ideas that came out of our engineering group,” he says. “It’s an injection-modeled system about half the size of a shoebox. You run your Western blots, pull the vacuum and within 22 minutes, you are getting results.”

According to O’Neil, the initial application of the method will focus on melanoma research, and will be a game-changer in terms of easing many of the time burdens of a typical Mohs procedure, a pathology sectioning method that allows for the complete examination of the surgical margin. The procedure—which involves the surgical removal of tissue; mapping, freezing, cutting and staining the piece of tissue; interpreting microscope slides; and reconstructive surgery—is both time-consuming and has a high incidence of false negatives.

O’Neil says ultimately, scientists at EMD Millipore will collaborate with doctors at the Cleveland Clinic to validate the use of SNAP i.d. for diverse tissue types and fixation protocols to accelerate translational research and drug discovery.

“This system enables the pathologist and surgeon to work together, hand-in-hand,” O’Neil says. “They can use the SNAP i.d. system for IHC during the surgical procedure, and make a decision on what to do next right there and then.”

In the current research environment, there is a critical need to be able to evaluate test results in a timely and effective way, says Chris Coburn, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the technology commercialization arm of the clinic. Ranked among the top corporate venturing arms in the world, Cleveland Clinic Innovations works on more than 200 new technologies per year and engages in dozes of similar transactions.

“SNAP i.d. is widely in use already as a means of conducting Western Blots,” Coburn notes. “The Cleveland Clinic technology expands the applications of SNAP i.d. to not only Western Blots, but also immunohistochemistry, which currently is a eight-hour procedure. But by using the SNAP i.d. application developed at the Cleveland Clinic, that immunohistochemistry time is reduced to around 30 to 45 minutes. This system will allow all researchers to increase their immunohistochemistry volume by reducing the time it takes for each procedure, which will help make lab work more efficient.”

Coburn says the first use of SNAP i.d.’s immunohistochemistry application will be for basic science research in the lab. Clinical applications, such as in the pathology lab, will follow in the future.

The Cleveland Clinic, he notes, has had a long relationship with Millipore in terms of licensing and product usage.

“The SNAP i.d. application was a good fit for the Cleveland Clinic to work with Millipore since Millipore sells the device,” Coburn says. “In addition, the Cleveland Clinic’s unique blend of clinical expertise and research prowess make us a good partner for a company like Millipore.”

O’Neil says Millipore is “excited to partner with such a world-class organization.”

“It’s a huge honor for us to have this opportunity,” he says. “I know they are an exceptional organization and a tremendous group of people who are very dedicated and collaborative. They are one of the highest volume centers for Mohs surgery in the world. While this initial application is very specific to that procedure, there are certainly other opportunities within IHC that we want to leverage—potentially in higher-volume workflows where time is of the essence.”

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September 10, 2010 Posted by | Academia & Non-Profit, Corporate, Dealmakers | , , | 1 Comment