Licence agreement a golden opportunity for cancer technology

9 July 2020


A novel rapid cancer diagnostic technology with the potential to quickly and easily detect cancer has been licensed for further development.

The methylscape technology which uses gold sensors to determine if 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present in blood or biopsy tissue was developed at The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest negotiated the licence agreement with US startup company aiGENE Inc.

AIBN Director Professor Alan Rowan said the technology was exciting.

“It is simple, rapid and potentially could be used across a wide range of cancers,” he said.

“The cancer DNA demonstrates different physicochemical properties in solution compared to DNA from normal cells.

“These differences enable the cancer DNA to bind more strongly to a gold surface, and this stronger binding can be used to differentiate cancer samples from normal samples.”

US entrepreneur and aiGENE Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr Floyd Taub said methylation had recently become one of the most exciting and informative methods of analysing DNA.

“Methylscape is a unique approach to epigenetic analysis,” Dr Taub said.

“Using physical chemistry methodology, the AIBN researchers assessed the methylation pattern across the entire genome and have developed a simple, fast and inexpensive method of analysing DNA.

“It is suitable for low and high resource labs and low and high throughput cancer diagnostic settings.

“aiGENE intends to develop a blood test to diagnose all cancers early and another for cancer patients receiving therapy to determine if that therapy is effectively killing their unique cancer ­– or if the therapy needs adjustment.

“To do this, the company intends to partner with research institutions, diagnostic companies and early stage investors.

“It’s also been wonderful that UniQuest has introduced aiGENE to its network of investors in Australia as we are keen to build a presence in Australia for our operations.”

In 1984 Dr Taub founded Digene – the first company to develop and commercialise a nucleic acid (DNA) test to diagnose or screen for any cancer.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss was thrilled to see the project move to this next stage.

“It’s great to see this exciting UQ technology licenced to an entrepreneur with deep scientific industry experience and a proven track record in molecular diagnostics,” Dr Moss said.

“Methylscape is simple and elegant with many possible applications and we are looking forward to aiGENE taking the technology to the market.”

The Methylscape technology is the subject of a patent application filed by UniQuest. The inventors are Professor Matt Trau, Dr Laura Garcia Carrascosa and Dr Abu Sina.

The initial research was published in Nature Communications.