By Iain MacIntyre
Auckland University of Technology Professor and Biotechnology Research Institute (KODE Biotech) director Stephen Henry has been awarded the 2011 RJ Scott Medal for engineering science and technology work of great merit.
Royal Society of New Zealand president Dr Garth Carnaby describes Professor Henry’s novel biotechnology method as being a “tremendous contribution” to research and development in New Zealand.
“Professor Henry is a world leader in the field of glycoscience,” says Dr Carnaby.
“He has developed a unique technology that represents a step change in the ability of scientists to create, manipulate and study the effects of carbohydrate structures on intercellular processes.”
A form of nanotechnology, Professor Henry says the breakthrough enables the attachment of biological markers to the surface of cells, viruses and non-biological solids – essentially a form of biological paint – specifically to reprogram them to undertake new functions.
“KODE technology has already been successfully translated into a range of medical practice technologies including quality control systems, diagnostic antibody detection panels and research and development tools,” he says.
“The most recent discovery that the technology is compatible with inkjet printing has opened up significant new opportunities, with the technology being applied to paper and resulting in the appearance of words in diagnostic reactions.
“The demonstrated therapeutic potential of the technology to inhibit viruses, toxins, microbes and antibodies opens up further opportunities.
“With focused developmental pathways, an active research and development pipeline, together with major international collaborators and commercial licensees, the technology is expected to be used in almost all diagnostic laboratories within ten years.”
A platform technology, KODE is based on Function-Spacer-Lipid (FSL) constructs, that have been designed and engineered to disperse in water and attach virtually any biomarker onto surfaces.
“The process ‘koding’ creates ‘kodecytes’ (FSL modified cells) and ‘kodevirions’ (FSL modified virions) with normal vitality and function.”
Professor Henry originally trained as a medical laboratory technologist, specialising in transfusion medicine with research interests in the ABO, secretor and Lewis blood group systems (publishing 69 journal articles in this field).
His academic research led him to resolving the serological, genetic and chemical basis of several antigens of the ABH, Lewis and secretor systems; information which today still infl uences medical practice decisions in blood serology and research.
Recently, his team jointly discovered the 31st blood group system in man.
In 1996 he formed KODE Biotech to develop the cell surface modification technology he conceived from his back-ground in glycolipids. Together with
Russian colleague NicolaiBovin, the KODE technology platform was designed, developed and reduced to practice.
By 2010 KODE technology, protected by an extensive intellectual property rights portfolio, was being used by a collaborative global research network, and generating revenue from more than 15 licensed medical technology products (with others in the pipeline).
Technology licensees/partners now include major research organisations and pharmaceutical companies such as CSL, Immucor, Sigma-Aldrich, where the technology is being used both for research, and to develop new diagnostic products and therapeutic agents.
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