By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

The U.S. government recently issued Rubicon Genomics Inc. a patent for OmniPlex, a novel DNA amplification and analysis technology it said can lower the cost of determining genetic differences between individuals to less than 1 cent per single nucleotide polymorphism.

The OmniPlex patent (No. 6,197,557) refers to using enzyme reactions ¿ normally used by cells to repair DNA damage ¿ to allow scientists to more quickly read genetic information from humans, animals, plants and bacteria.

Thomas Collet, Rubicon¿s president and CEO, told BioWorld Today that OmniPlex allows for the cost-effective implementation of pharmacogenomics and application of personalized medicine technologies to drug discovery and validation.

OmniPlex works by reformatting naturally occurring chromosomes into new molecules called Plexisomes, which are amplifiable DNA units that function as a molecular relational database from which the genetic information can be quickly and accurately recovered.

The structure of the information in Plexisomes allows large and targeted regions of a genome to be analyzed in a set of reactions that are hundreds of times more efficient than cloning or polymerase chain reaction (PCR), according to the company. Rubicon said its technology improves speed and accuracy while lowering the cost through replacing the current biological processes with synthetic ones.

Rubicon has been in business for about two years, and has spent much of its early days developing and enhancing its technologies. To date, the company has one customer using the OmniPlex technology. Collet declined to name the client, but did say the deal was struck in May.

Rubicon, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., was founded in 1998 by John Langmore, a professor of biology and former chair of the biophysics research division of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Vladimir Makarov, a former senior research scientist at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow; and Richard Sloan, of Sloan Ventures LLC, a seed-stage venture firm.

The company received $1.75 million in its initial round of funding in May 2000. A year later, Rubicon received another $1.9 million in the form of a research grant awarded by the Michigan Life Science Corridor Initiative. Collet said he hopes to raise another $3 million to $5 million this fall.

Rubicon has 12 full-time employees. Collet, who has been on the job since February, intends to hire about eight more employees within the next two months.

Collet formerly was general partner at Tullis-Dickerson & Co. Inc., a health care-focused venture fund, where he was in charge of the Midwestern United States office in Ann Arbor. Before that, he was vice president of business development during the start-up of St. Louis-based Integrated Protein Technologies, a unit of Monsanto Co.

He also was an engagement manager at McKinsey & Co. Inc. in Germany, where he advised pharmaceutical and health care clients in Europe and the U.S. on strategy and operation. Collet worked with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as well.

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