An NIH-generated fluorescent probe that lights up any or all of the 46paired chromosomes in the human karyotype is up for non-exclusivelicensing. A notice in last Tuesday's Federal Register (FR) proffersWhole Chromosome and Band-Region-Specific (micro-FISH) PaintingProbes for commercialization.Molecular biologist Jeffrey Trent is principal inventor of thechromosome-analysis system, for which an NIH patent is pending. Hedirects intramural research and the cancer genetics laboratory at theNational Center for Human Genome Research."The bottom line," Trent told BioWorld Today, "is our novel approach,using microdissection, for generating whole-chromosome paintingprobes. The technique positions a finely pulled glass needle, half amicron at its tip, on a microscope slide containing a spread ofchromosomes. Under micro-manipulator control, Trent said, "you canliterally dissect or scrape off the region of the chromosome you want,or the entire chromosome."Then, after PCR-amplifying its DNA to generate sufficient probematerial, and making the sample fluorescent, you hybridize it back tothe metaphase cells." Trent says this technology requires a singledissection, rather than the 30 to 50 in current use.Another advantage he cites is that conventional fluorescent probes havedifficulty analyzing chromosomes 13, 14, 15, 21 and 22, which haveoff-center mid-points. His, he stated, can handle the complete set of 46."So you can imagine chromosome 21, which in Down's syndrome hasan extra copy, lighting up with three intensely bright signals instead oftwo." He noted that "there are some holes in the current marketplace asfar as individual probes go. This fills those holes."As advertised in last week's FR, NIH's Office of Technology Transferis "seeking non-exclusive biological materials licensees" tomanufacture and market these probes.Trent is already working on such an agreement with one prospect,Imagenetics, a subsidiary of Amoco Technology Co., in Naperville, Ill."Some other companies," he said, such as Boehringer, which makesfluorescent labeled nucleotides, would be likely licensees, if interestedin expanding their catalog to sell these kinds of reagents."Besides identifying chromosomal abnormalities, the FR notice said, theNIH micro-FISH probes can serve "as research reagents to furtherstudy various cancers and hereditary diseases." _ David N. Leff[Editor's Note: Licensing information is available by contactinglicensing specialist Carol Lavrich at the NIH Office of TechnologyTransfer. Telephone: (301) 496-7735.]
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