By Matthew Willett

LumiCyte Inc. officials say they're looking to take on a market for both drug discovery and disease state identification with their bioinformatics platform utilizing protein mapping technology for proteomic drug discovery and disease diagnosis.

The company's patented biochips use plasma, saliva or urine to generate comprehensive molecular protein information, offering physicians the opportunity for early disease diagnosis and researchers essential information for target discovery.

The driving technology behind the company's informatics is SELDI, or surface-based molecular capture and imaging, a process that uses pulses of laser light to read molecular profiles on small chips and other molecular probes.

Jim Immer, LumiCyte vice president of operations, said his company is focused on expanding the utility of human genome sequencing, making a road map into destinations.

"What's actually exhibited is proteins," Immer said of the genome sequence. "They're messengers or they're responding from attacks from outside. If we're able to identify proteins and the changes associated with proteins and correlate that to disease and disease states, we can work to identify those and come up with discovery targets for drug development and with the monitoring of individual health states. That's where the real carrot's at."

He added that the company's protein mapping techniques differ from standard technology, dominated by 2-dimensional gel mapping, in accuracy and scope.

"The world of proteomics now is driven by companies utilizing technology originally created with a genomics focus that's not as exacting as ours," Immer said. "Those technologies have to purify proteins, and as you go through that you lose information, but we take raw samples and take the protein information right from that."

Company CEO Bill Hutchens, also a co-founder of LumiCyte, began the company in 1999 with SELDI technology licensed from Molecular Analytical Systems Inc., technology licensed to it from the Baylor College of Medicine.

Immer said the company is seeking expansion through discovery and collaborations. Most recently LumiCyte launched its proteomics discovery service at its Fremont, Calif., site and an Internet portal for its bioinformatics platform.

"We're negotiating partnerships for discovery projects and negotiating partnerships from an equipment standpoint, since we're using very high-end mass spectrometers and building mass spectrometry farms and handling such a high volume of chips. It's important that we have good partners to provide us with high-quality equipment."

In the future, he said, the company will announce those partnerships and associated discoveries.

"What's exciting is that we're living at a confluence of major technologies, and we're able to take the best of biotechnology and the best of bioinformatics and data tools and data analysis - that technology from people who grew it up in seismology - and we're able to work with a confluence of the Internet, bringing all those together. It's a terribly exciting company."

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