UCL News


Key contract signed with Roche diagnostics

27 June 2005

./roger-ekins.jpg" width="260" height="290" alt="Professor Roger Ekins" class="float-right" title="Professor Roger Ekins">

Roche Diagnostics has signed an option agreement with Multilyte Limited which grants Roche Diagnostics access to Multilyte's patents relating to multi-parameter microarray-based immunoassays and other miniaturized 'biochip' analytical methods.

The agreement is an important step forward both for UCL and biophysicist Professor Roger Ekins (Molecular Endocrinology, UCL Medical School), the technology's inventor and founder of Multilyte, a UCL spin-off company. Professor Ekins is internationally recognized (together with Dr Yalow and Dr Berson of New York) as the originator of radioimmunoassay and related 'ligand assay' methods, his first publication in this field in 1960 - relating to the assay of serum thyroid hormones - coinciding with that of Yalow and Berson describing an assay, based on identical principles, of serum insulin.

He has received many awards for his work in this area, including the inaugural American Association of Clinical Chemistry's EF Ullman award (1998), the Prince of Wales Award for Innovation (1991), the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry's Distinguished Clinical Chemist Award (1993) and the Society of Endocrinology's premier award, the Dale medal (1998).

In the mid 1980s, Professor Ekins conceived of, and ­- with his departmental colleagues - developed and patented, a revolutionary 'multianalyte' assay methodology that is now transforming research in the fields of DNA and RNA analysis, immunoassay, genomics and proteomics, and which is widely predicted to revolutionize medical diagnostics and other related areas in the next decade.

This 'miniaturized' technology permits the simultaneous, ultra-sensitive, measurement of thousands of different substances of biological importance (such as hormones, proteins, viruses, genes) in a single drop of blood.

Microarray methods (which are currently being developed by companies across the globe) formed the basis of the most heavily government-funded biotechnology project in US history (the Gensensor Project and Consortium, established in 1992), and is of immense commercial value, being claimed by US financial analysts to form the basis of a future $40 billion market.

Images: Top - Professor Roger Ekins. Bottom - Typical assay format used in an allergy test (prepared by Boehringer Mannheim).