The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) seeks to commercialize through patent licensing a method for rapidly depositing patterns of active biomolecules and living cells utilizing a focused laser pulse onto various surfaces that could be used, for example, to fabricate protein arrays for proteomics analysis.
A method for creating a microarray of proteins and other biomaterials that uses focused laser pulses to transfer material from a three layer target onto a receiving substrate (see figure). The transparent support layer allows a laser pulse to focus at its interface with the absorbant coating layer causing the biomaterial to be propelled to a specific location on the receiving substrate. The biomaterial could be proteins, DNA, RNA, a layer of fixed or living tissue, single cells, etc. The system is completely automated allowing for rapid, accurate design of any pattern on a wide variety of substrates via CAD/CAM. The method can be carried out under controlled conditions of temperature, air pressure, humidity, and sterility. The spatial resolution of the deposited biomaterial can be as small as 1 micron, allowing the fabrication of a microarray by dispensing tens to hundreds of picoliters of solution for each array spot, and uses only a fraction of one microliter to fabricate over a thousand array spots. Current proteomics experiments rely on printing techniques developed for cDNA microarrays using ink jet, pin or quill arrayers that clog, make air bubbles, and have unnecessary sample loss; problems that are solved with this technology.
- Increases the density of deposited spots up to 100X and minimizes consumption of the biomaterial.
- Can be used for proteins, as well as other biomaterials, including those in a living or active state.
- Uses “direct write” to create a pattern directly on a substrate, so no mask or preexisting form is needed.
- Computer-controlled precision and the ability to rapidly change between biomaterials to be deposited.
US patents 6,905,738 and 6,936,311 and patent application numbers 2004/0247777 and 2005/0018036 are available for license. Prototypes have been constructed and are ready to be scaled-up to make a high-throughput robotic process. Further joint development with the US Navy is possible under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Additional details of the technology, an overview of the licensing process, and an interview with the inventor, are available through TechLink.