EE News and Events

NIH Grants to Professor Meldrum

EE Professor Deirdre Meldrum is the Principal Investigator on two very large research grant awards from the National Institutes of Health.

Advanced Develop/Test ACAPELLA Automated Sample Handler

NIH National Human Genome Research Institute
June 1, 2000 - September 30, 2003

Award amount: $8,196,216
Subcontracts: Orca Photonic Systems Inc., Redmond, Washington
Washington University St. Louis Genome Sequencing Center
Other participants: UW Genome Center (Maynard Olson)
Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research

With a previous NIH NHGRI grant ("Capillary Automated Submicroliter Sample Preparation", 5/97 - 4/01, $2,637,490 direct) I have developed an automated fluid sample handling system called "Acapella." This instrument, developed with Orca Photonic Systems, Inc. (subcontractor), prepares small (1 to 2 microliter) reactions inside glass capillaries for biological protocols such as PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction to amplify DNA), sequencing reactions, and restriction digests. The system is a general purpose chemistry analysis system that is intended to greatly reduce the costs, increase the throughput, and improve the reliability of samples that are prepared. Our first application is for large-scale DNA sequencing. Our goal is to decrease costs by 10 times, and to produce 5000 samples in 8 hours. One of our instruments will be able to support any where from 3 to 10 of the modern capillary electrophoresis sequencing instruments.

In this new advanced development grant we have been funded to develop new automated modules for the ACAPELLA system. These include automated thermal cycling, purification, and loading to the sequencing instruments.

A big part of the project is to extensively test the instrument with the users for large-scale DNA sequencing. We have a series of alpha tests lined up with the UW Genome Center (Maynard Olson). Then we will run a series of beta tests with 3 centers: UW Genome Center, Washington University St. Louis Genome Sequencing Center, and the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research. The St. Louis and Whitehead centers are very large-scale production centers for DNA sequencing and will provide a serious test for the instrument.

Technology associated with this project will be disseminated and commercialized to bring the ACAPELLA systems to the point where they can be deployed to major genome centers and for other applications.

Automated Minimal Residual Disease Quantification

NIH National Cancer Institute
June 1, 2000 - May 31, 2004

Award amount: $2,170,590
Subcontracts: Orca Photonic Systems Inc., Redmond, Washington
Other UW investigator: Prof. Daniel Sabath, Dept. Laboratory Medicine

In this project an automated system is being developed to quantify minimal residual disease (MRD) by using real-time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to quanfity cancer cells in a background of non-pathologic DNA. The system will derive some technology from the Acapella system (described above). A real-time thermal cycler will be developed that will provide DNA quantification results with greater precision than what is currently possible with commercial instruments by taking advantage of a high performance custom fluorescence analyzer and sophisticated data analysis methods. Performance of the system developed will be evaluated on real biological samples provided by the UW Department of Laboratory Medicine.Results returned by the system will be compared with results of PCR experiments performed in Laboratory Medicine run on a commercial instrument for the diagnosis of patients suffering from follicular lymphomas.