Protein research powers blood test revolution
Largest ever research grant for Molecular Horizons
A revolution in the early detection of a wide range of diseases through a simple blood test has started thanks to a new partnership announced today.
The home of some of Australia’s most powerful biological microscopes, Molecular Horizons, has signed a $3.5 million partnership with Protein Evolution Inc, a young start-up company based in the United States.
Together with a university research group from the ESPCI in Paris, the Molecular Horizons researchers team up with the company to develop groups of protein molecules that can detect multiple diseases at the molecular level.
This will allow doctors to simply search for a wide range of diseases from a single blood sample – detecting abnormalities at an early stage to enable the most effective treatment.
The Director of Molecular Horizons, Professor Antoine van Oijen, said the project was a perfect fit for the $80 million institute, which opened in 2021.
“We were chosen for this research because we have world-leading capability to visualise molecular processes at the level of single molecules – which by definition is the ultimate sensitivity limit,” he said.
“The goal here is to detect disease at the single-molecule level, so there’s a beautiful synergy between our technical capabilities and having an impact on the health of our community – exactly what we set out to do with Molecular Horizons.”
He said the two-year, $3.5 million contract between Protein Evolution Inc and Molecular Horizons was the largest ever signed by the Institute and would support multiple UOW research teams, led by himself, Dr Lisanne Spenkelink, Dr Harshad Ghodke and that of Associate Professor Haibo Yu.
These teams include a group of talented junior researchers who will drive the research and development behind the project: Dr Nehad Elsalamouny, Dr Richard Spinks, Dr Jordan Cater, Dr Nirukshan Shanmugam, Mr Stefan Mueller, and Mr David Grimson.
Protein Evolution was founded by scientist and entrepreneur Dr Jonathan Rothberg, who is known for inventing and commercialising next-generation DNA sequencing, ultrasound on a chip, and a portable MRI.
The company benefits from being part of 4Catalyzer, an incubator of biotechnology and medical device companies (most notably, Butterfly Network, Hyperfine, and Quantum-Si) which have collectively raised over US$3 billion in funding.
The company’s mission is to use proteins to transform the health of the earth’s environment and people. As part of this mission, it is already working on the development of an enzyme capable of biodegrading plastic.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Molecular Horizons and Professor Antoine van Oijen to discover novel protein molecules that recognize disease to push forward a new generation of diagnostic and preventative health applications,” said Connor Lynn, co-founder and chief business officer for Protein Evolution.
“The intersection of opportunities within single-molecule biophysics, protein engineering, and deep learning is staggering – and we are thrilled to be at the cutting edge, alongside Molecular Horizons.”
WHAT IS MOLECULAR HORIZONS?
Molecular Horizons is a world-leading molecular life sciences research Institute that opened a new facility in 2021 on the Northfields campus of the University of Wollongong.
It is dedicated to impact-driven research where the world’s best molecular research is put into practice to improve and save lives.
To enable this world-leading research UOW has invested in a suite of revolutionary technology including Australia’s most powerful biological electron and optical microscopes.
The molecular life sciences are at the forefront of scientific discovery, unlocking the innermost secrets of the living cell and developing new ways to detect and attack disease.
Molecular Horizons is dedicated to illuminating how life works at a molecular level and solving some of the biggest health challenges facing the world.