Agilent Technologies will partner with the University of Southern California (USC) Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience to facilitate what they said will be transformational research that combines biomedical science and engineering.

The partners will establish the Agilent Center of Excellence (COE) in Biomolecular Characterization, which will specialize in “convergent” bioscience research, anchored by the lab of Valery Fokin, Ph.D., a principal investigator at USC’s Michelson Center whose research has focused on chemical reactivity and biological interactions at the molecular level.

Agilent said Dr. Fokin’s lab will contribute to multiple collaborative drug discovery projects planned by the COE, ranging from chemical synthesis of screening and focused libraries and biological assay implementation to the development of targeted drug delivery systems, diagnostics, and vaccines.

“Convergent bioscience research requires successful collaboration across multiple disciplines—a holistic approach that is central to Agilent's view of the future,” Darlene Solomon, Ph.D., SVP and CTO for Agilent, said in a statement. “Agilent's collaboration with the Michelson Center is an excellent example of how academia and industry can work together, sharing knowledge and expertise to shorten the timeline between scientific discoveries and real-world applications.”

The COE will be housed at USC’s Michelson Hall, a $185 million building that opened in October 2017 as the largest building on the university’s campus, funded by a $50 million gift from Gary K. Michelson, M.D., a retired orthopedic spinal surgeon, and his wife, Alya Michelson.

Michelson Hall is a research facility aimed at establishing a convergence of researchers with science and engineering backgrounds who collaborate on multidisciplinary approaches to developing new drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices. 

Access to Instrumentation

Agilent said the COE will also serve USC undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the company’s customers based in the area, by providing them with access to new Agilent instrumentation and broad exposure to the university’s researchers.

Dr. Fokin is one of the COE’s two co-directors. The other is Richard Roberts, Ph.D., chair of USC’s Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Dr. Roberts—a professor of chemistry, chemical engineering, and biomedical engineering at USC—has focused his research on the chemical biology of protein synthesis, notably peptide and protein design using in vitro selection experiments. Dr. Roberts conceived and implemented mRNA display to enable polypeptide design, enabling his lab to create and sieve more than 10 trillion independent peptide or protein sequences for function.

Another USC researcher who will contribute to the Agilent COE will be Steve Kay, Ph.D., provost professor of neurology, biomedical engineering, and biological sciences. His lab studies the composition and architecture of circadian networks in plants and animals, employing high-throughput genomic and chemical biology pipelines to identify network components and apply mechanistic approaches to understand their detailed function and interactions.

Two other USC researchers who will contribute to the COE include Raymond C. Stevens, Ph.D., provost professor of biological sciences and chemistry, and Peter Kuhn, Ph.D., Dean's Professor of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Stevens is a pioneer of high-throughput structural biology whose lab elucidated the structure of proteins—for example, joining with colleagues in 2007 to publish the first high-resolution structure of a human G-protein-coupled receptor. Earlier, he collaborated with researchers at Gilead Sciences on structural studies of neuraminidase inhibitors that led to the development of Tamiflu®. His lab has launched four startups (Syrrx, acquired by Takeda; MemRx, acquired by Novartis; Receptos, which had an initial public offering in 2013; and RuiYi, located in Shanghai).

Dr. Kuhn’s lab aims to translate clinically observed correlations into a mechanistic understanding of the physical and biological underpinnings of cancer dynamics by integrating patient, model system, and high-content single-cell data. The lab’s aims include developing a quantitative description of the transition between limited and disseminated cancer, demarcating the complexity and alterations over time of a cancer in all its phases, and describing the temporal evolution of disease in patients with poor prognosis compared to those with favorable prognosis.

“As convergent bioscience becomes a major contributor to scientific knowledge and ultimately improved human health, academic and industry collaboration will play a key role,” said Stephen Bradforth, Ph.D., divisional dean for natural sciences and mathematics at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “I’m pleased that Agilent has the vision to support our efforts in this important emerging research field.”

Previous articleIncreasing Sirt4 Activity May Help Treat Age-Related Metabolic Decline and Disorders
Next articleGene Therapy May Not Be a Viable Option for Many Patients