Selective Activable Probes for Biological Detection

Period of Performance: 09/01/2000 - 08/31/2002


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Agave Biosystems, Inc.
P.O. Box 100
Ithaca, NY 14850
Firm POC

Research Institution

Cornell University
426 Phillips Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Institution POC


Mast cells provide an exciting potential for biosensor applications. Coupled with target specific IgE antibodies, mast cells can both be specifically targeted against a single antigen and also act as signal amplifiers. Perhaps the most commonly known example of this effect is the reaction many people have to allergens. The cell membranes of all mast cells have high affinity receptors, which bind IgE antibodies. When two or more receptor bound IgE antibodies capture their allergen, they initiate a sequence of biochemical events that acrivates the mast cell and causes it to degranulate and release a number of chemicals. Because of the power of this natural amplification, sub-femtomolar detection is possible. As with other immunological systems, a vast number of targets can be detected with the system by interchanging different antibodies against the respective antigens. In the Phase II, Agave BioSystems will utilize the natural power of mast cells as signal transducers to demonstrate that mast cells are a robust amplification system that can be harnessed as the lead biocomponent in a new class of highly sensitive and specific biosensors. This technology will tap into the large immunoassay market, complementing the specificity of traditional immunoassays with the power of the mast cell's natural signal amplification. This signal transudation mechanism will allow the use of simple flurometric instrumentation for immunoassays with much greater sensitivities. The development of truly effective portable biosensors for a wide range of applications will be possible. Because of their central role in the allergic immune response, the use of a mast cell biosensor in detection and identification of both airborne and foodborne allergens is particularly exciting.