College biomed programs turn to Tempe firm's DNA test kit - East Valley Tribune: Business

College biomed programs turn to Tempe firm's DNA test kit

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Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 11:30 am | Updated: 5:03 pm, Thu Oct 20, 2011.

The way students study DNA strands has met its match with a new genome test kit produced by a Tempe company.

The product, marketed by GenoSensor Corp., is called the EduPrimerTM DNA Profiling Kit.

Since its release at the beginning of this year, it’s already in about 10 percent of universities nationwide according to James Xia, president of GenoSensor.

“We're receiving a lot of interest from schools looking to advance their biomedical program,” Xia says.

The DNA Profiling Kit works in accordance with a piece of equipment that’s been in use for years: the PCR, or the polymerase chain reaction, machine.

Although PCR equipment is not new, few colleges choose to teach with it because it’s harder for professors to work with rather than using a microscope, Xia explains. But most employers in the workforce already use the technology, leaving graduating students at a disadvantage when they’re applying for jobs.

“It really captures the modern technology. Students who do not graduate knowing it will need to be re-trained,” Xia says.

Students learn how to isolate DNA from human cells, and then amplify and analyze specific DNA strands using PCR technology. The Profiling Kit puts the student right in front of the re-agents for DNA analysis. Students often complete their work with more efficiency and better results.

“If a school sees this is where the science is going and what they need to prepare their students, they need to learn this new technology,” Xia says of the kit and the PCR technology.

The DNA Profiling Kit comes with 24 individual DNA tests, as most classroom labs have 24 or fewer participating students at one time.

“I think it’s really cool for students to see the real-life DNA strand,” says Brittany Ebbing, a lab assistant and junior undergraduate student at Arizona State University.

The kit uses fewer steps compared with other DNA profiling kits on the market. Because each step builds upon itself in an experiment, it’s crucial for students to get the correct results at every step.

Some students find the protocol for GenoSensor’s kit to be much more straightforward.

“It’s a lot easier for students to use. Fewer steps,” Bo Faust, a lab assistant and graduate student at Arizona State University, says. “The other kits are for hard-core scientists. This is user friendly.”

Here are the steps (all but the PCR are included in the kit’s contents):

1. A student collects his or her own check cells using a swab.

2. Cells are quickly lysed (broken apart) and DNA is isolated from cell in a PCR tube.

3. Students then find and analyze the specific gene in the DNA by PCR amplification.

So what’s holding schools back from jumping on GenoSensor’s new gadget?

Funds.

In Arizona, ASU is the only school using the new technology.

“I’m hoping Arizona could do even better and (science-based companies in Arizona) could all grow together and make education even stronger here,” Xia says.

Students in states like California and New York, where education funding is higher, are more likely to have the technology now or in the near future.

But the 2011 innovation is still young, Xia says, and he has high hopes for the product’s potential.

“Even schools who cannot afford it now are planning to get a hold of it for the future,” Xia says. “Even community colleges are interested.”

The DNA lab procedure requires both the PCR and the DNA Profiling Kit. The PCR machine costs between $5,000 and $6,000 and will last up to 10 years. Each DNA Profiling Kit is a one-time use only product. Xia did not want to disclose how much each kit of 24 costs schools, but says it’s affordable.

“The bottom line is I hope people will catch on to improving education in this state and in the nation,” Xia said. “It will make our nation stronger.”

GenoSensor Corp. established its headquarters in Tempe in 2003, but it is reaching customers all over the world. The small private company develops and markets research and diagnostic products for both educational and professional environments.

Xia says the DNA Profiling Kit has had a strong, positive impact on the company’s profits, although he would not divulge revenue numbers.

He predicts the genomic technology market will grow "very fast and very big. This product has certainly given us a profit.”

Xia says the company has been doing very well, despite the economy, and is planning to open a headquarters in China in the near future.

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