Tadpoles Unleashed

The first paper describing sensitive, parallel quantitation of "just about anything" using Tadpoles is now published.  "Using protein-DNA chimeras to detect and count small numbers of molecules"(abstract), is now available at Nature Methods.  The News and Views piece (subscription required), by Garry Nolan, a microbiology and immunology professor at Stanford, describes the paper thus;

What is important about the work is that [it] went well beyond the norm in providing proof of concept for a detection system. The modularity of [the] approach, the ease with which the recognition domains can be created and simply coupled to a DNA marker for multiplexed measurements, and the extraordinary sensitivity of the approach makes this an appealing system for researchers wanting a standardized high-throughput, and accurate, detection system for...just about anything.

It is gratifying to finally see this technology out in the world.  Ian Burbulis, in particular, did a tremendous job in grinding out the details of assembling the detector molecules and of making the assays work.  When Ian and I conceived this technology, the point was to enable multiplexed detection of proteins and other analytes from single cells.  While we have more work to do to implement the assay at the single cell level, the paper demonstrates we are well on our way.

Nolan also notes the commercial potential of the technology: "The authors [demonstrated] a more real-world, sensitive test of an important bacterial pathogen in whole blood sera.  I can already see the reagent vendors scrambling for their phones."  As one of the two inventors (here is the patent application), this gives me the opportunity to blog about the tension between protecting inventions, to enable commercialization, and the philosophy and practice of Open Source.  I first discussed the potential of widespread access to biological technology in "Open Source Biology And Its Impact on Industry", published in IEEE Spectrum in 2001.  More on this in an upcoming post.