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Medical Device Daily Senior Staff Writer

Biomagnetics Diagnostics (San Francisco) has entered into a patent license agreement with Los Alamos National Security for access to its IOBS technology.

The company says it continues to "aggressively work" toward development of the world's first integrated optical biosensor for the detection of disease causing pathogens. Biomagnetics is initially focusing on cholera, tuberculosis and malaria diagnosis.

Harshini Mukundan, PhD, scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL; Los Alamos, New Mexico) presented a video webinar Friday on the Integrated Optical Biosensor Development (IOBS) technology developed at LANL. The webinar explored the genesis of the IOBS unit as well as a simplified technical review of the system versus current diagnostic methodology.

Mukundan explained during the webinar that the LANL has been working towards the rapid diagnostics of several diseases using a waveguide-based optical biosensor developed at Los Alamos.

While one of the key goals of the system is to get assays out of it for the sensitive detection of biomarkers, which can be used for diagnosis of the disease in question, Mukundan noted.

"The waveguide is a piece of glass and you actually have a grading that's etched on the piece of glass. It has two different refractive indexes, when laser light is coupled into the grading it propagates through the material by total internal reflection between the two different refractive indexes," Mukundan said in explaining the Integrated Optical Biosensor. "Almost all of the light stays within this guided node, but a small amount leaks out from the surface and it falls off really fast as the distance from the waveguide surface increases and it is only about 200 to 400 nanometers from the surface of the waveguide."

In addition to the webinar, Basil Swanson, PhD, deputy division leader of the LANL Biosensor team, and Clayton Hardman, CEO of Biomagnetics provided investors with an update of the company's progression of the IOBS technology during a conference call.

Swanson told investors and media during the call that his team at LANL has been developing biological sensors for the past 15 years or so and had started off working towards pathogen detection but has since moved towards diagnostics. He said the research has been funded by several agencies, including the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and "lots of sources of support over the years."

Hardman said Biomagnetics' agreement with the LANL calls for the development of a bench top system based on the IOBS technology, and eventually a handheld system. The agreement also includes training by an LANL scientist of the company's choice and includes the development of a cholera diagnostic for the new system, as well as a tuberculosis assay.

"Typically, all of these assays are extremely rapid . . . they take about 15 minutes to 30 minutes on average so it's much quicker than traditional immunoassay platforms," Mukundan said.

Swanson said that "wether you're dealing with cancer or an infectious disease" one thing that is "desperately needed" is a way to quantitatively measure the expression profiles. "If you have that kind of information over time you'll be able to say a lot more about not only the diagnosis in the first place . . . also the course of disease and also the outcome of therapeutic intervention." In that way the technology is intended to help guide therapy, he said. "That's what's really desperately needed for all these things."

Hardman also noted that the latency effect of various diseases is an important issue that the IOBS will, hopefully, be able to address.

"Tuberculosis in particular, a third of the world's population is estimated to be infected with tuberculosis and for a vast majority it is a latent infection, that's a catch word for many, many different stages of the disease," Swanson explained. "It would be very nice to reach back, if you're sensitive enough in terms of your ability to identify pathogen markers . . . to the stage of the latent infection before it even becomes active."

In addition to a bench top system, Mukundan said the LANL has also made a prototype handheld system to show that this concept is applicable to field-based diagnosis and detection.

"The deployable function of this unit offers some extremely rewarding results also," Hardman added. "You can take this into a small village in India, Africa, Thailand . . . where it can be utilized . . . [in contrast] if you were to travel to those areas, draw blood, bring the sample back to a lab . . . that may no longer be a viable sample, so that offers a tremendous ability that doesn't exist today."

Amanda Pedersen, 309-351-7774;

Published  August 30, 2010

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