03:23pm Tuesday 17 October 2017

Startup joins UCLA tech incubator to develop technologies for drug discovery, screening

Ion channels are proteins in cell membranes that play a central role in generating and transmitting cardiac and neural signals. The channels control the passage of ions into and out of cells; the effects of drugs that act on ion channels can be determined by measuring the flow of ions through these channels. However, conventional measurement technologies, which utilize live cells, are relatively slow and expensive.
 
A team led by Jacob Schmidt, associate professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has developed a cell-free artificial membrane technology for ion channel measurement that may result in significant savings of time and cost.
 
This technology has been exclusively licensed by Librede, which was founded in July 2008 by Schmidt and Jason Poulos, Librede’s chief technical officer and a co-inventor of the technology. As part of this arrangement, the University of California will earn a royalty on the company’s future products.
 
Librede moved into lab space at the CNSI incubator this month and has access to CNSI core lab facilities such as the Molecular Shared Screening Resource (MSSR) for research and development.
 
“The CNSI’s incubator space is ideal for us,” Poulos said. “We have access to state-of-the-art facilities and technical staff that will allow us to rapidly develop our technology and grow our company.”
 
“Although cell-free platforms for ion channel measurement have been used for decades, their cost and expertise requirements have mostly limited their use to scientists,” Schmidt said. “We have developed an artificial cell membrane that is inexpensive, easy to use and automatable. We hope that our technology will reduce the cost and time associated with ion channel measurements.”
 
The UCLA on-campus Technology Incubator Program at the CNSI is an innovative resource with a mission to help accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial startup companies and early-stage technology research projects that originate at UCLA. The incubator offers shared, flexible lab space dedicated to housing eight to 10 early-stage incubation projects for short periods of time.
 

The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA is an integrated research center operating jointly at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara whose mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations for discoveries in nanosystems and nanotechnology; train the next generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; and facilitate partnerships with industry, fueling economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world. The CNSI was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California and an additional $250 million in federal research grants and industry funding. At the institute, scientists in the areas of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, computational science and engineering are measuring, modifying and manipulating the building blocks of our world — atoms and molecules. These scientists benefit from an integrated laboratory culture enabling them to conduct dynamic research at the nanoscale, leading to significant breakthroughs in the areas of health, energy, the environment and information technology.


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