South Carolina’s Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems, Inc. (IMCS), a leader in recombinant enzymes and micro-chromatography technologies, was awarded $1.8 million for Phase II of its Fast-Track Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH/NIGMS).
Combined with earlier SBIR funding, the grant will provide scientists access to affordable gangliosides that aid in developing therapeutics and diagnostics for neurological diseases including Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The NIH/NIGMS previously awarded IMCS a 4-year, $2.56 million Fast-Track Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to expand the glycan toolkit and build an extensive array of sialoglycans that advance glycobiology-related research. The combined Fast-Track grants for the projects now exceeds $5.25 million. These projects will provide the scientific community access to affordable, easy-to-use reaction kits to facilitate synthesis of various glycans to advance research into potential diagnostics and therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases.
The SBIR project is headed by L. Andrew Lee, Ph.D., co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of IMCS, along with Xi Chen, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Davis. The STTR project is in collaboration with Hai Yu, Ph.D., Project Scientist at the UC-Davis.
Glycobiology, the study of the biological impact of sugars, has gained momentum in recent years. The surfaces of viruses, bacteria, and cells of our bodies are decorated with unique sugars or glycans. Some viruses and bacteria can exploit glycans to wreak havoc on our bodies, while a lack of glycans can result in disease progression. Studies suggest that modifications to certain glycans in molecules related to the brain are implicated in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
To date, the high cost of reagents and materials needed for glycobiology research have contributed to few tools to study glycans. Glycan-modified cell membranes (glycolipids) and gangliosides (a component of brain matter critical to research) must be harvested from pigs, sheep, and cows as there is currently no cost-effective manufacturing process. The biosynthetic manufacturing technology used for these projects will result in animal-free gangliosides.
Matthew Macauley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alberta, is eager to access significant quantities of gangliosides. “Some experiments with glycolipids are cost-prohibitive, but scalable and facile access to glycolipids would make such experiments financially feasible,” he noted.
While not involved in the grant, Dr. Macauley’s lab studies glycan-binding proteins called Siglecs and their impact on disease states such as Alzheimer’s. Noting that commercially available glycolipids do not capture the diversity needed in research, he notes that reaction kits funded by the grant could be “a tremendous help for a lab that doesn’t have expertise with glycan synthesis and doesn’t want to invest in getting all these enzymes expressed.”
Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R44GM139441 and R42GM143998. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems, Inc is a privately held biotechnology company that strives to address the growing needs of clinical and research laboratories through innovative technologies and custom solutions designed to increase testing efficiency. IMCS creates, manufactures, and distributes next-generation biotechnology products to clinical and forensic toxicology, academic research facilities, US Government agencies, and health science companies around the world.