A UK company developing a system that uses sound to detect when molecules interact with each other has licensed a complementary sensor system from GlaxoSmithKline. Combining the two technologies could provide a hike in sensitivity and performance.
No cash has changed hands in the deal, although GSK has taken an equity position in Akubio in exchange for the rights.
Akubio's acoustic technology is based on a quartz resonator that is already widely-used in the electronics industry. It can be used to detect a ligand in a complex mixture of molecules without the need for a labelling system - such as radioactivity, fluorescence or enzymatic reactions - and can also detect the sounds that molecular bonds make when they break, determine the affinity of a ligand for a receptor, and even provide an indication of the concentration of a molecule in solution.
The company has licensed global rights to GSK's piezoelectric crystal microbalance system, another label-free detection technology that is complementary to Akubio's Rupture Event Scanning (REVS) and Resonant Acoustic Profiling (RAP) systems.
Acoustic detection can be used to detect bacteria and viruses in clinical samples, as well as the prion particles that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and the human disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Diagnostics are likely to be the first application of the technology.
However, it can also be used to monitor the interactions of drug candidates with their targets and can be used at various stages in the drug discovery process. Akubio claims that it offers a number of advantages over rival approaches. For example, the use of fluorescent or chemiluminescent labels adds to the time and cost of assays, and can in some cases interfere with the molecular interaction, for example by occluding a receptor binding site.
"Our technology requires no label thus reducing the time required for assay development and avoiding the potential for false results," said Akubio.