CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- In June, a Morgantown biotechnology firm plans to start selling a medical research instrument that's already generating significant interest from some of the world's largest drug and technology companies.
Protea Biosciences has built several prototypes of the instrument, which rapidly identifies a broad range of chemicals and biomolecules found in biological samples such as tissue, blood and urine.
Two multinational pharmaceutical firms and a computer and technology company have scheduled visits to Protea's lab in Morgantown next month. The companies' representatives will watch a demonstration of the biomedical research instrument.
"It's the first one of its kind in the world, and it's right here in West Virginia," said Stephen Turner, Protea's CEO. "We're going to take it through its paces over the next several months. We believe this will revolutionize biomedical research by enabling the discovery of new biomarkers for disease diagnosis and drug development."
The technology -- called Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization (LAESI) -- allows scientists and researchers to analyze tissue samples in less than five seconds -- a process that can take up to an hour using current equipment.
"One of our directors described it as a Xerox machine for biologists," Turner said. "The idea is that it's something every biologist will have to have."
The technology has a number of potential uses:
LAESI technology was invented in the lab of Akos Vertes, a professor at George Washington University. Vertes' work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals.
In 2008, Protea obtained an exclusive license to sell and market the technology. Protea has since enhanced the LAESI technology by developing instrumentation and computer software. The software allows researchers to analyze three-dimensional images of tissue or other biological samples.