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Pressure BioSciences reports significant progress in new method for processing rape kits

Pressure BioSciences reports significant progress in new method for processing rape kits

Pressure BioSciences (NASDAQ:PBIO) said Wednesday that it has made "measurable progress" in the development of a new procedure for the selective extraction of male DNA from mixtures of male and female cells, which could help in the processing of rape evidence.

The new procedure is based on the company's patented pressure cycling technology (PCT), which uses rapid and repeating cycles of hydrostatic pressure at controlled temperatures to extract cell components in the preparation of a biological sample, such as DNA, RNA, and proteins from humans, animals and plants, for further study.

The applications of the company's PCT-based products are endless - from the key $2 billion target market of mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to determine the characteristics of molecules, to biomarker discovery, forensics and counter-bioterrorism, among other uses.

Currently in the forensics field, methods used to separate a woman's DNA from a man’s DNA is done manually, often time-consuming and yielding unsatisfactory results in cases like rape. 

The project’s goal is to improve the processing of sexual assault evidence kits.

Data from the new PCT-based procedure was reported at the recent 17th Latin-American Symposium on Biotechnology, Biomedical, Biopharmaceutical, and Industrial Applications of Capillary Electrophoresis and Microchip Technology (LACE 2011) in Hollywood, Florida.

Dr. Bruce R. McCord, associate director of the International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI), department of chemistry and biochemistry at Florida International University (FIU), and Deepthi Nori, MFS from the IFRI - FIU, presented the study, which was entitled Application of Pressure Cycling Technology (PCT) in Differential Extraction.

Dr. McCord and Ms. Nori are working on the development of a PCT-based method to differentially extract DNA from sperm and vaginal epithelial cells in the same mixture.

In a statement, the two said they believe that this method has the potential to significantly decrease rape kit processing time, increase throughput, decrease costs, and improve results.

The new procedure could also lead to better identification of criminals involved in sexual assaults, as the method could help confirm suspect and victim contact.

Nori said: “Current methods for processing rape kit samples require the selective extraction of male DNA from sperm cells in the presence of much larger quantities of female DNA.

"This is accomplished by first separating the sperm and non-sperm fractions. This processing step is essential, yet it remains difficult, complex, time-consuming, and not aligned with automation. It is truly a serious bottleneck in sexual assault casework."

Dr. McCord added: "Our goal is to develop a PCT-based method that can selectively disrupt sperm cells in mixtures containing female cells, without the need to first separate the cells.

"At the LACE 2011 Meeting, we reported on the successful completion of this important processing step in laboratory samples. We have now begun to test this unique approach in complex mixtures and real sexual assault evidence kit samples."

McCord went on to say that he expects to report on these new studies at the annual American Academy of Forensics Sciences conference in February, and at other venues throughout the year.

Since Pressure BioSciences began commercial operations in the middle of 2007, it has come a long way, releasing a number of PCT-based products geared towards the $6 billion sample preparation market, including three pressure-generating instruments named Barocyclers, a patent-pending sample homogenization device (The Shredder SG3), five types of single-use processing containers and six different, application-specific reagent kits.

Already, the company has installed around 200 of its PCT Barocycler instruments plus required consumables in laboratories. The sample preparation system has been proven to be safer, more accurate, reproducible, and much faster than current cell extraction methods - with up to 48 samples able to be processed from a wide variety of cells and tissues within minutes.

VP of marketing for the company, Dr. Nathan Lawrence, concluded: “With as many as 400,000 unprocessed rape kits nationwide, and an estimated 180,000 new sexual assault cases each year, it is essential that improved methods for processing rape kits be developed."

"We believe that the data reported by Dr. McCord and Ms. Nori indicate that PCT can potentially increase the recovery of DNA from sperm cells, without the need for a long and laborious separation step.

"Based on their findings, we believe their unique PCT-based method could result in better quality of results and significantly increased throughput, which in turn could result in a reduction in the rape kit backlog and an increase in arrest rates for sex crimes.

"And for PBI shareholders, we believe this method could result in significant increases in Barocycler instrument placements and product revenue in 2012 and beyond."

Earlier this month, the life sciences company saw its shares surge after it announced the signing of a co-marketing and selling agreement with Digilab, expected to boost its sales efforts significantly.

The companies said they intend to co-market and sell their respective product lines worldwide, including in industry publications, at scientific meetings, on each company's website, through common collaborator studies, at key industry trade shows, and in visits to customer sites.

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