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UO shares expertise on DNA research.

Byline: GREG BOLT The Register-Guard

The University of Oregon has agreed to share technology and materials developed in its labs with a San Diego-based biotechnology company looking for new treatments for disease and age-related disorders.

The company, MitoKor, will gain access to protein separation technologies and monoclonal antibodies developed for the study of mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondria are the biological engines that produce the energy that keeps cells alive, and MitoKor specializes in commercial applications of mitochondrial medicine.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Don Gerhard, director of technology transfer for the UO, said the university will get some cash up front, will be paid for other technology as it is needed and could earn additional payments later if the research helps produce new products.

"The university and MitoKor feel it reflects a fair balance of shared risk and shared reward," he said. "This is a significant deal for the university and one that we hope will reflect a step forward in what will be a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship."

The UO technology was developed by biology professor Roderick Capaldi, an internationally known expert on mitochondria and member of the UO Institute of Molecular Biology, and professor Mike Marusich, director of the monoclonal antibody facility at the UO Institute of Neuroscience.

It includes an innovative method for protein separation and specially developed monoclonal antibodies.

Monoclonal antibodies are specially cultured antibodies used to detect and measure a suite of proteins controlled by mitochondrial DNA.

By understanding which proteins are controlled by specific genes, scientists can better understand gene functions.

Mitochondrial abnormalities are connected with a variety of illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Type 2 diabetes. It also plays a major role in the aging process, and MitoKor is collaborating with the nonprofit Buck Institute for Age Research to better understand aging through mitochondrial research.

A key to that effort is unraveling the DNA in mitochondria, which is separate from the DNA found in chromosomes and which governs most human development. Unlike chromosomal DNA, which is an equal blend of genetic material from the mother and father, mitochondrial DNA is handed down only by the mother.

"It turns out that just as human development is focused on chromosomal DNA, there is this enormous wealth of information on disease states and the health of the human body that you can glean from the mitochondrial DNA," Gerhard said. "It's essential to the functioning of the body. If the mitochondria are not functioning, cells die because they can't get enough energy."

Capaldi is a leading expert on the function of genes in mitochondrial DNA, and Marusich has developed specialized research tools for analyzing proteins in mitochondria.

The deal with MitoKor is part of the UO's effort to expand the transfer of university-developed technology from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The university earned more than $500,000 last year from licensing and option agreements based on UO research, the largest amount ever for the school.

The 10 licensing agreements signed by the university last year also tied its record.

Gerhard said many high-tech companies were hit hard by the recession and especially the terrorist attacks last fall, but he said he's still expecting another strong year.

"This really is the function of the university's technology transfer program," Gerhard said of the MitoKor deal.

"It's one of a number of license and option agreements the university enters into with commercial entities that will diligently carry forward technology to the marketplace."
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Title Annotation:Deal: The biotech firm MitoKor will use UO technology on age-related diseases.; Higher Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 19, 2002
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