Robins receives $150,000 Life Sciences Discovery Fund grant

Award boosts access to T-cell receptor gene sequencing service
Dr. Harlan Robins
Dr. Harlan Robins will use his grant from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund to enhance a DNA sequencing technology to profile T-cells within the immune system. Photo by Carol Insalaco

The Public Health Sciences Division’s Dr. Harlan Robins received a commercialization grant worth $150,000 from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund. He will use the monies to enhance a DNA sequencing technology to profile T-cells within the immune system.

Robins, a researcher in the Herbold Computational Biology Program, was one of four recipients of the LSDF grants aimed at supporting commercial development of health-related technologies.

Robins plans to scale up a high-throughput T-cell receptor gene sequencing service to expand researcher access and enable better diagnostics and treatments for conditions involving the immune system. TCR genes are key components of the immune system and are also believed to play a role in autoimmune disease.

Robins and colleagues have developed a method to sequence TCR genes at very high throughput and formed a company to offer this service to the research community. TCR sequence information allows investigators to study topics such as immune system reconstitution following cord blood transplantation; immune responses to vaccines; and association of specific TCRs with autoimmune disorders.

Potential benefits to research community

The proposed work will expand the company’s service by improving the assay as well as the associated software/analytical tools. This scale-up is anticipated to markedly reduce the cost of the service and thus broaden researcher access within a short time frame. In addition to enhancing research competitiveness, this expanded access could potentially enable improved post-transplantation treatment protocols, more effective vaccines, and new diagnostics for autoimmune disorders.

LSDF’s commercialization grant competition, which debuted in 2009, promotes the translation of promising ideas or technologies from Washington’s nonprofit research sector into marketable products and services having the power to improve health, foster economic growth and enhance life sciences competitiveness in the state.

Award funding was donated by Amgen, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Group Health Cooperative, Microsoft Corporation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Regence BlueShield, and Safeco Insurance Foundation; and from Washington’s allocation of payments under the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement of 1998, revenues arising from multi-state litigation with tobacco product manufacturers.

LSDF is launching a second round of the 2010 commercialization grant competition. Visit the LSDF website for more information.

[Adapted from a Life Sciences Discovery Fund news release]

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