June 23, 2005
DermTech International Receives UC Discovery Grant for Melanoma Research Utilizing Proprietary Technology
San Diego, CA – DermTech International, an early-stage biotechnology company developing skin sampling technologies for pre-clinical and clinical applications, announces today it is the recipient of a one-year UC Discovery Grant in the amount of $138,000 for research toward the diagnosis of early-stage melanoma. The research will use the company’s proprietary Epidermal Genetic Information Retrieval (EGIRTM) technology, a non-invasive technique for recovering nucleic acids from the surface of the skin. G. Wesley Hatfield, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Associate Director of the Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of California, Irvine, is named as Principal Investigator on the grant, and Bogi Andersen, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at UC Irvine, is co-principal investigator.
UC Discovery Grants, sponsored by the University of California through its Industry-University Cooperative Research Program in conjunction with the State of California, aim to accelerate research with potential public benefits. The objective of the research covered by the grant awarded to DermTech International is to develop a non-invasive method for diagnosing melanoma, an often fatal form of skin cancer, using the company’s EGIR technology. EGIR is a patented method for collecting a sample of surface skin cells with an adhesive film that allows the recovery and analysis of RNA for genetic profiling of the site in question. Specific biomarkers are known to correlate with certain skin conditions or diseases, and EGIR has been shown to be able to detect differential expression of mRNAs corresponding to such markers in lesional vs. healthy skin. The aim of the proposed research is to create a set of genetic profiles representing pigmented skin lesions that can subsequently be used as an aid in the diagnosis of early melanoma via tape-stripping, at a stage in which the disease is most treatable.
Besides ease of use, the EGIR technique has the added advantage of being able to retest the same lesion or site, leading to more accurate diagnoses of melanoma or other types of skin cancer and reducing the need for painful, possibly unnecessary, biopsies. “Even expert clinicians working in pigmented lesion clinics where melanoma is their specialty are only able to determine whether a suspicious pigmented lesion is melanoma or not with 60-80% accuracy. This necessitates surgical biopsies of a large number of pigmented lesions and leads to the missing of some early-stage melanomas. It is hoped that DermTech’s non-invasive gene expression tests will provide an accurate method to determine if a suspicious lesion will progress to a melanoma,” stated Dr. Andersen.
Headquartered in San Diego, California, DermTech International (www.dermtechintl.com) specializes in the development and validation of molecular biology techniques for the analysis of various skin disorders. The company’s proprietary Epidermal Genetic Information Retrieval (EGIR) technology is currently being studied in the context of tracking treatment efficacy for a variety of dermatologic conditions, including the effects of drugs on skin at the molecular level in advance of observable clinical results, and aiding in the diagnosis of disease.
About The Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics: Founded in 2001, the Institute is dedicated to promoting innovation at the intersection of the life and computational sciences. This includes the creation of electronic databases and computer modeling of biological systems such as genomes and protein sequences. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.igb.uci.edu.
Contact: Nicholas Benson, PhD
Vice President, Research & Development