Spin-offs and Innovations
The first tenant of the new University Enterprise Laboratories was Gel-Del (www.gel-del.com), founded by David Masters, Ph.D., a biomaterials expert at UM. Gel-Del produces biomatrix-based materials from purified proteins that can be molded like plastic into tubes, wafers, particles, or sheets, or shaped to resemble the bodys own tissues, says Philip Messina, CEO.
The Gel-Del products integrate into the bodys tissues, support cell growth, and can deliver drugs. Gel-Dels blood vessel grafts are being evaluated in pigs. The first commercial product will be an injected Gel-Del matrix to remove wrinkles or tighten urinary sphincters.
Prism Research (www.prismresearch.com) also is a tenant of University Enterprise Laboratories. The company conducts clinical trials for pharmaceutical and medical device companies in its 52-bed, in-patient center. The facility resembles a hotel more than a hospital.
The companys CEO, Charles Halstenson, Ph.D., ran a smaller unit at Hennepin County Medical Center. Were focusing on early Phase I and II trials, says Dr. Halstenson. Prism Research opened in March 2005 and business is brisk, especially trials of drug interactions, dose escalation, and pharmacokinetics on healthy volunteers.
In Maple Plains, TC Tech (www.tc-tech.com) keeps laboratories supplied with sterile fluid handling products, including bags, tubing, fittings, and connectors. The 10-year-old company opened its second manufacturing plant in August 2005. Responding to concerns about infectious prion contamination, TC Tech launched a new line of products that are free of animal materials.
The line features AF Premium bags with capacities from 100 mL to 1,000 L. All carry documentation traceable to the resin supplier certifying the animal-free nature of the materials.
We also manufacture custom disposable bioprocess bag systems and certify them as BSE-free, says Eric Wyatt, marketing manager. Another new line of rigid containers to hold flexible bags, known as BioTote, comes in 5- to 200-L sizes.
Molecular biologist Laura Kakach co-founded ATG Labs (www.atglabsinc.com) 10 years ago to fill a need for contract services in molecular biology. The company has a strong client base across the U.S., including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agricultural, and medical device companies.
The experts at ATG Labs work one-on-one with clients to meet their needs. The companys services include cloning, site-directed mutagenesis, DNA sequence analysis, and recombinant protein expression in E. coli and Baculovirus.
Ruth Shuman, Ph.D., started Gentra Systems (www.gentra. com) in 1988 to develop ways to overcome the slow and tedious drudgery of purifying DNA.
The recently introduced Versagene kit isolates pure RNA or genomic DNA from animal tissues, cultured cells, or whole blood. The kits come complete with the minicolumns and reagents needed to purify samples. In addition, Gentra sells the Autopure instrument for running high throughput DNA purification samples.
Since 1993, BioE (www.bioe. com) in St. Paul has developed antibody-based technologies to isolate therapeutic cells, such as stem cells, from blood sources.
While attempting to find a way to cryopreserve umbilical cord blood, the company accidentally discovered a stem cell line called Multi-Lineage Progenitor Cells (MLPCs), which differentiate into tissues representative of the three germinal layers, including nerve cells, liver/pancreas precursors, skeletal muscle, fat cells, bone cells, and blood vessels.
MLPCs bypass the ethical controversies inspired by embryonic stem cells. In addition, MLPCs are cloned from a single cell, so all the cells are exact genetic copies of each other.
BioE built up a large inventory of three distinct single-cell lines, which the company makes available under a research license agreement at a minimal cost. MLPCs are easy to expand, and they maintain their genetic normalcy.