The Palo Alto Research Center and The Scripps Research Institute Partner To Accelerate Discovery Processes in the Life Sciences
Scripps-PARC Institute for Advanced Biomedical Sciences unveils new method aimed at early cancer detection
19 April 2004
Palo Alto, Calif., April 19, 2004 - The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation, and The Scripps Research Institute today announced their partnership to form the Scripps-PARC Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies with the intent to accelerate discovery processes in the life sciences. The two internationally renowned research centers, with a combined history of more than 80 years of leading-edge research, are collaborating to create technologies in biomedical science that will have groundbreaking scientific and commercial impact. This announcement coincides with a paper presented today unveiling the Scripps-PARC Institute's first breakthrough - a system for detecting and monitoring cancer through blood testing at unprecedented speeds, enabling early diagnosis of cancer and other conditions.
"This partnership capitalizes on PARC's expertise in physics, imaging, mathematics, information sciences and engineering to address some of the most challenging issues Scripps Research recognizes in biomedical science," said Scripps Research President Richard A. Lerner, M.D. "The joint endeavor fuses the expertise of two of the world's most innovative institutions to create tools that benefit the broader scientific community and ultimately may be used in areas such as drug discovery and diagnostics that benefit humanity's health and welfare."
The Fiber Array Scanning Technology (FAST) cytometer uses PARC's competencies in lasers, opto-mechanical engineering, and imaging to detect cancer cells almost 1000 times faster than digital microscopy, the current gold standard. At the earliest stages of the disease, cancer cells are present in a person's bloodstream at extremely low concentrations (one per million to one per ten million). Recognizing these "rare cells" could be invaluable for patient diagnosis and monitoring, but their concentration makes them very difficult to find and reliably identify. Today, tagging of rare cells with a fluorescing agent enables identification of rare cells; however, at least 50 million cells need to be scanned for statistical relevance.
At present, the FAST cytometer can analyze such a sample in two minutes compared with 16 to 32 hours required for digital microscopy. The key to the technology's efficiency is its wide scanning area. While digital microscopy scanning has less than a millimeter field of view in which to acquire images, the FAST cytometer has a 50 millimeter-wide field of view. High-speed scanning techniques found in laser printing enable the high scan rates. Initially the FAST cytometer will serve as a pre-screening device. Once probable rare cells are identified, higher-resolution scanning can be used to create images a physician or other qualified expert would review. Cells can also be relocated for additional characterization and testing.
The technology has general applicability for other rare cell-related research topics such as the detection of fetal cells in maternal blood and early detection of viral-infected cells. "Our goal in creating the FAST cytometer is to enable identification of rare cells in the clinic," said Richard Bruce, director of the Scripps-PARC Institute for Advanced Biomedical Sciences and manager of PARC's Computer Science Laboratory. "Because the FAST cytometer uses simple, robust technology and enables cost-efficient operation, we believe it could make screening for cancer or other rare cells as routine as an annual blood test."
The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation, conducts pioneering interdisciplinary research in physical, computational, and social sciences. Building on its three-decade tradition of innovation, PARC works with Xerox and other strategic partners to commercialize technologies created by its renowned scientists. As the birthplace of technologies such as laser printing, Ethernet, the graphical user interface, and ubiquitous computing, PARC has an established record of accomplishment for transforming industries and creating commercial value. See: www.parc.com
About The Scripps Research Institute
The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and Palm Beach County, Florida, is one of the world's largest, private, non-profit biomedical research organizations. It stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases and synthetic vaccine development. See: www.scripps.edu
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