A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh (both Pittsburgh) has received a five-year, $13.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH; Bethesda, Maryland) to establish a National Technology Center for Networks and Pathways.

The center, headquartered at Carnegie Mellon, will focus on developing fluorescent probe and imaging technologies to investigate regulatory pathways and networks in real-time in living cells. This work will generate molecular biosensors for preclinical research to map the many cell-signaling networks involved in disease. Ultimately, such biosensors will be used in hospital- and office-based diagnostic medicine.

"The further development of discrete intracellular fluorescent probes is the critical next step in exploiting the results of the Human Genome and Human Proteome projects," said Arthur Levine, senior vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. "The combined research resources and research faculty of the two universities promise to move the whole of medical science and medicine forward with an exceptionally exciting and new momentum."

Within any given human cell, hundreds, if not thousands, of proteins may interact in precise cascades when the cell is called upon to yield a necessary product, such as a hormone, or to respond to an environmental stress, according to center faculty. Understanding the elements and dynamics of these cascades in a given cell and in real-time is the key to diagnosing why cells don't function properly and what might be done about that dysfunction therapeutically.

"The tools created through this center will give us a completely new way of looking at complex biological processes, allowing us to watch these activities in unprecedented ways," said Norka Ruiz Bravo, deputy director for Extramural Research at NIH. "The new technologies developed in Pittsburgh ultimately will enable researchers worldwide to unlock fundamental aspects of costly diseases such as cancer, dementia and stroke."

In other grants/contracts news:

• Acacia Research (Newport Beach, California) reported that its CombiMatrix group has received notification of an award of $1.9 million from the Army Research Office to fund development of new products and capabilities for fielding CombiMatrix technologies.

Completion of the work will result in a handheld instrument capable of rapid multiplexed PCR amplification, ECD-based microarray detection, and data-interpretation capabilities, Acacia said.

The objective of the project is to develop a self-contained, fully integrated, automatic, and disposable device for detection of a wide variety of microorganisms within one hour. All the functional components of this device such as micropumps, microvalves, and micromixers are expected to be integrated in the device, thus "simplifying and automating" device operation, Acacia said.

The device will be designed for the detection of a wide variety of microorganisms and integrated for semi-automated or automated sample preparation and detection in a "rugged, field-deployable unit," the company said.