PNNL recognized for commercializing technologies

03/01/04

Richland, Wash. -- The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been recognized for transferring technologies that will enhance drug discovery, treat cancer with fewer side effects, and advance the capabilities of sophisticated analytical instruments known as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers for biological and biomedical research.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium is honoring PNNL with three 2004 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards for the laboratory's Electrodynamic Ion Funnel, alpha particle immunotherapy for treating leukemia and solid-tumor metastases, and Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry Collision/Reaction Cell Technology.

The PNNL technologies were among 24 recognized nationwide by the FLC this year. With 57 awards, PNNL has been honored by the FLC more than any other federal laboratory since the recognition program began in 1984.

Electrodynamic Ion Funnel

The PNNL-developed Electrodynamic Ion Funnel significantly improves the sensitivity of analytical instruments such as mass spectrometers by improving the focusing and transmission of gaseous ions. Sensitivity is a key measure of the analytical value of a mass spectrometer. Enhanced sensitivity allows, for example, the detection of many new proteins from blood plasma and the possibility of discovering new biomarkers for the early detection of cancer.

The funnel's capability for focusing significantly more ions into the mass spectrometer for analysis will result in lower detection limits, improved data collection, new applications and greater understanding of the substances analyzed.

Originally developed to enhance PNNL's mass spectrometry capabilities, the Electrodynamic Ion Funnel uses a series of ring electrodes of increasingly smaller size in combination with both radio frequency and direct current electric potentials. This provides for the efficient collection of ions in the presence of gases where they normally would be lost, and a more focused transmission. The result is much greater sensitivity and the capability to measure substances, such as proteins, at much lower levels.

Through non-exclusive licensing agreements, PNNL has transferred the technology to three companies--Waters Corp., Milford, Mass., and Bruker Daltonics, Bellerica, Mass., manufacturers of mass spectrometers; and Biospect, San Francisco, Calif., which is developing a new class of instruments for human clinical applications.

Cancer Treatment

Alpha particle immunotherapy is the first treatment that targets metastatic cancers. This groundbreaking technology makes it possible to treat some types of cancer more effectively and with fewer side effects than conventional treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Immunotherapy combines the power of alpha particle-emitting radioactive isotopes, such as actinium-225 and bismuth-213, with monoclonal antibodies that bind to and destroy specific cancer cells, while sparing nearby healthy tissues.

The PNNL-developed separations, purification and conjugate chemistry has made it possible to use these powerful new radioisotopes to treat patients with leukemia or fast-spreading cancers. Early trials at major research centers have been encouraging and a second round of clinical trails is scheduled to begin in fall 2004 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

While researchers at PNNL developed the enabling chemistry, the primary supplier of the radioisotopes is MedActinium, a small radiopharmaceutical firm in Tennessee. MedActinium holds an exclusive license to the new technology, which allows them to develop immunotherapy products and bring the therapy closer to fullscale clinical use.

Collision/Reaction Cell Technology

PNNL's development of the Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectrometry (ICP/MS) Collision/Reaction Cell (CRC) Technology has resulted in a new generation of elemental and isotopic analysis instruments. CRC removes interferences, enabling the mass spectrometer to better detect and measure environmentally significant metals, such as heavy metals, toxic pollutants and radionuclides, compared with conventional technology. The CRC technology, which can be used by environmental monitoring and testing firms, semiconductor manufacturers, forensics laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and agencies involved in national security, will enable faster, more cost-effective characterization of samples and materials.

Spectral interferences are a major problem in many analytical techniques. They cloud the certainty of results and limit the ability of analysts to determine very low levels of substances. New techniques and technologies that can reduce or eliminate such interferences always extend the power and application of analytical techniques. With the CRC technology, spectral interferences long associated with the ICP/MS technique have been overcome. The technology uses simple and effective gas-phase reaction chemistry techniques, carried out in a small cell that is easily adapted to conventional instruments. The approach is able to overcome interferences that previously required much larger mass spectrometers to resolve.

The technology has been licensed to ThermoElectron, Waltham, Mass., and Agilent Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif., manufacturers of high-performance elemental analysis instruments. Today, more than 60 percent of ICP/MS instruments sold incorporate PNNL's CRC technology.

The FLC recognizes federal laboratories and their employees who have made significant contributions in transferring important federally funded technology into the private sector. The FLC is comprised of more than 700 federal laboratories and centers nationwide.

A formal ceremony honoring the winning entries will be held at the FLC National Meeting in San Diego, Calif., on May 5, 2004.

Business inquiries on the award-winning technologies or other PNNL innovations can be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or inquiry@pnl.gov.

PNNL is a DOE Office of Science research facility that conducts fundamental research into complex chemical, physical and biological systems and provides science-based solutions to critical issues in national security, energy and environmental quality. The laboratory employs more than 3,800 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff, and has an annual budget of nearly $600 million. Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, operates PNNL for the federal government.

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