Prototype of the new ZyGEM/MicroLab system reportedly produces results in less than an hour.

ZyGEM has acquired MicroLab Diagnostics, a firm specialized in the development of microfluidic devices for rapid DNA testing. ZyGEM says that it plans to combine the new microfluidic chip technology with its own DNA-extraction and -detection technologies. The aim is to develop assays for applications in fields ranging from point-of-care diagnostics and forensics to biodefense and food-pathogen testing.

The firm claims that a prototype of the new ZyGEM/MicroLab system has already been shown to produce accurate DNA results in less than an hour. With field testing of the platform scheduled for this year, commercial introduction could be achieved in 2011, says Paul Kinnon, ZyGEM CEO.

The initial aim is to target the forensic and government sectors for which proof-of-concept has already been demonstrated. These markets are estimated to be worth some $3 billion annually in the U.S. alone, according to ZyGEM.

“We intend to rapidly develop and commercialize our new platform with the help of selected partners,” Kinnon states. “The transformative power of our technology is not a future dream—we have already presented data confirming our ability to achieve accurate results with unprecedented speed and ease-of-use.”

The MicroLab technology miniaturizes the entire DNA-testing process within a single, closed system. The firms report that the approach reduces the amount of sample reagents required and virtually eliminates the risk of handling error or contamination. The combined ZyGEM/MicroLab system is compact, capable of handling multiplexed analyses, and suitable for both laboratory or field use, the companies state. Additionally, portable handheld versions are in development.

ZyGEM says that it also plans to continue to expand sales of its closed-tube assays and kits for the extraction of nucleic acids from samples. The firm’s New Zealand-based laboratories will also continue to develop new applications for enzymes derived from ZyGEM’s 2,000-strong collection of extremophile organisms.

In March ZyGEM launched its latest product, the RNAGEM™ Tissue RNA extraction kits. They feature an optimized formulation of the firm’s enzymatic technologies for the single-tube extraction of RNA including small noncoding RNA and micro-RNA that are excluded by other RNA extraction methods, the firm explains.

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