Money To Further Develop Penn Medical Scientist's Innovation

(Philadelphia, PA) - Technology developed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to rapidly determine blood type for transfusion is one of seven projects recognized today with funding from BioAdvance, the Biotechnology Greenhouse of Southeastern PA. The technology's inventor, Donald L. Siegel, MD, PhD, will receive a $463,000 investment to begin developing the Automated Blood Typing project's technology for broader use.

BioAdvance was founded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to strengthen the region's commitment to biomedical research using funds from Pennsylvania's portion of the national tobacco settlement. The automated blood typing project will use technologies patented by the University of Pennsylvania.

"The current technology used to determine blood type is over 50 years old. The process is time-consuming, expensive, and prone to human error," said Siegel, an Associate Professor in the Penn's Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Director of the Blood Bank/Transfusion Medicine Section at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "Our research has shown that we can type blood efficiently and inexpensively through the use of specially designed antibodies specific for factors in the blood."

The Automated Blood Typing project will create a new class of renewable, inexpensive, high quality blood bank testing reagents that can be used in an automated blood typing system. Siegel believes that such a system will drastically reduce blood typing errors and save lives by more accurately matching blood and organs to recipients.

Siegel's proposal was one of 59 applications submitted by universities and small companies for the initial round of BioAdvance funding. Three advisory panels consisting of biotech, pharmaceutical, and venture capital representatives volunteered to review applications based on technical merit, commercial potential, and intellectual property.

"The BioAdvance funding will enable us to make that broad leap from laboratory potential to medical practice," said Siegel. "It is a great opportunity that allows the state to invest in its native talents."

The first goal of the Automated Blood Typing project will be to clone a panel of antibody reagents specific for clinically-significant red blood cell antigens. These antibodies will sit atop the surface of bacteriophages - biological particles which self-replicate in harmless kinds of bacteria. Siegel's research has already shown these reagents to be superior to conventional blood bank reagents and can be used with all currently available agglutination-based blood typing methods. The second aim of this proposed project will develop a novel blood typing platform based on this new generation of anti-red blood cell antibodies.

"We propose to use the unique DNA sequences within bacteriophage particles to assay the blood group type of a red blood cell," said Siegel. "Such a strategy will offer extraordinary sensitivity and specificity, enabling us to create an entire antigen profile of a red blood cell sample in a single reaction vessel."

Siegel's efforts are part of a broader initiative by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in conjunction with Penn's Center for Technology Transfer, to develop, protect, transfer, and commercialize intellectual property resulting from the University's research.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $6.7 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.