Patent covers VARI research method

April 3, 2011
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The Van Andel Research Institute and Gentel Biosciences Inc., a Wisconsin company, recently announced a patent for a method of studying changes in proteins for cancer research.

Brian H. Haab, head of VARI's Laboratory of Cancer Immunodiagnostics, said the technology from his lab will be combined with Gentel products that researchers use to identify biomarkers for cancer.

"We invented a technology for measuring the levels of carbohydrates attached to protein in the blood. It has advantages over existing methods," Haab said. "We're using that to detect changes in the carbohydrate structure that are specific to cancer."

Haab said that the technology may someday lead to a blood test for detecting cancer.

"We saw the limitations in the current existing technologies for measuring carbohydrates on proteins, so we wanted a better way to do that," he said. "We came up with some ideas and put them into practice."

The addition of linear or branched sugar molecules to proteins provide a better method for early detection and prognosis in certain cancers than measuring the protein alone, studies have shown.

The new patent gives researchers another tool in the protein analysis kits that Gentel sells to researchers, according to a company executive. A patent for the same technology is pending in the European Union. Gentel has held the commercialization rights since 2006.

"There is a lack of tools to screen proteins for changes in glycosylation that might be associated with disease," said Bryce P. Nelson, Gentel's vice president of technology and business development. "Dr. Haab's approach is a better method to identify new diagnostic biomarkers based on glysosylated variants of proteins."

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