Biametrics is a spin-off from the University of Tübingen that focuses on the commercialisation of innovative developments in the field of label-free bioanalyses. The company’s platform detects interactions between biomolecules using reflectometric interference spectroscopy (RIfS) and can be integrated into small mobile analytical devices.
Quick, robust and inexpensive at the same time as having very low detection limits - this sounds too good to be true. Biametrics' label-free analysis platform offers all these advantages, making it interesting for use in clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical drug development, as well as safety testing for pathogens, for example at airports. Label-free analyses have the overall advantage that they do not alter the natural activity of the objects under investigation, in this case any kind of biomolecule, as a result of the labelling of the molecules with specific markers.
The basis of Biametrics' technology had already been developed back in the 1990s by a group of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Günter Gauglitz at the University of Tübingen. That is where the two company founders and Biametrics managing directors met: Dr. Günther Proll and Florian Pröll were both investigating optical biosensor systems using reflectometric interference spectroscopy, RIfS for short. Pröll explains the principle of RIfS: "In materials with different optical characteristics, light is partially reflected and partially passes through the boundaries of two different materials. The reflected rays superimpose on each other, i.e. they interfere with each other in relation to their wavelength. This leads to changes in the reflected light pattern." The two Biametrics' managing directors use soap bubbles to explain the processes: here, interferences result in the fact that some colour components are no longer visible and the colour changes, thereby causing the soap bubble to shine brightly.
Optical biosensors involve carrier materials such as glass or plastics that allow light to pass through. To enable two materials to interact, the scientists coat glass or plastics surfaces in order to attach molecules with which the reaction partner, which is either dissolved in the sample solutions or bound to the surface of cells, can subsequently interact. The optical properties of the layer will change upon the interaction of the dissolved molecules with the molecule bound on the glass/plastics surface. These changes can be measured with RIfS. “We started off using the methods developed in Gauglitz’s department, expanded them further and added proprietary developments. Since 2007, we own a patent portfolio that protects our developments,” said Proll.
A lot of work was needed to develop the company’s proprietary surface chemistry. “The key question for us was how could we firmly attach a molecule on the glass carrier in a way that enabled it to remain functional, i.e. to recognise its interaction partner and interact with it,” said Pröll. “The second challenge was to coat the surfaces in a way that would prevent us from measuring unspecific artefacts,” said Proll. The procedure has since achieved a high degree of maturity and is able to detect molecule concentrations as small as one picogramme per square millimetre surface area.
Biametrics works with bigger companies to sell its innovative sensor technology. These sales partners are focused on specific markets, including diagnostics for example. Proll explains Biametrics’ business model: “Basically, we sell a system solution, we sell licences for our technology and we accompany the development of devices. This means that we work closely with manufacturers who are seeking to adapt their products to the specific requirements of our technology. In addition to this, we also develop new applications.”
Biametrics sees the greatest application potential of its technology in the fields of human and veterinary medicine. Using in vitro diagnostics as an example, Pröll explains the advantages of the system: We coat a surface with an antibody and expose the carrier to a blood or serum sample. When potential partners are present in the blood or serum, they will bind to the antibodies on the carrier. This interaction can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. In order to do this, we need a second antibody and do not need any washing steps that would lead to false-negative results due to the low affinity of the binding partners.” The direct method means that the interaction can be measured rapidly while also saving on reagent costs. Automation, and hence increase in throughput, can quickly generate high reagent costs.
Biametrics Marken und Rechte GmbH
Dr. Günther Proll
Auf der Morgenstelle 18
Tel.: +49 (0)7071 29-73048