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Agilent in Life Sciences

The race for the cure is a slow, grueling, full-length marathon. There's a lot of ground to cover. And the answers could be anywhere. With disease and drug discovery solutions from Agilent, researchers can analyze genes and proteins to discover the cause and cure of disease faster than ever before. We're accelerating progress to make the marathon more like a 100 meter dash.

Discovering Genetic Clues to Detect and Treat Disease

Gene expression, the process by which genes give instructions in cells, provides clues for detection and treatment of diseases such as cancer. Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute used mathematical methods and Agilent's detection tools to identify gene expression patterns associated with mutations in genes known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Similar studies using microarray technology have identified gene expression patterns associated with pancreatic cancer, lymphomas and melanomas. As researchers uncover new information about different types of cancer, the medical profession brings closer the dream of truly personalized medicine.

"The potential of genome-wide views to influence the diagnosis of cancer seems a certainty," said Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D., scientific director at the National Human Genome Research Institute. "We now have sufficient confidence in genomic techniques to begin incorporating them into the design of clinical trials."

Agilent's gene expression solutions can also be applied in other areas of the life sciences and are enabling researchers in plant biology to improve agriculture. Paradigm Genetics, Inc.—an integrated life sciences company developing novel technologies to speed the discovery of products for the advancement of human health, agriculture and nutrition—recently developed a comprehensive DNA microarray chip for Magnaporthe grisea, a devastating fungus that destroys rice. These postage-stamp-sized chips analyze up to thousands of genes in one step, a vast improvement over previous one-at-a-time techniques. Agilent manufactures this microarray for Paradigm using proprietary gene sequence information. The microarray will allow Paradigm to do the most complete analysis of this fungus to date.

"The new array is a dramatic improvement over our early generation chip," said Jeff Shuster, Ph.D., director of Microbial Research for Paradigm Genetics. "It is an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to discover novel targets, characterize new fungicidal chemistries and develop novel anti-fungal compounds."

Discovering the Role of Proteins in Disease and Drug Discovery

Agilent's application solutions for proteomics help researchers delve even deeper into the role of proteins in complex biochemical processes, such as the development of a disease and its cure. Studying a protein challenges the researcher's most sophisticated equipment, because each human cell potentially contains hundreds of thousands of other proteins.

One research approach in proteomics identifies the proteins present in a tissue sample and the concentration of each. To learn more about a diseased liver, for example, a researcher determines the level of various proteins present in a diseased cell and contrasts that with the protein level in a healthy cell. Administering a drug to the diseased cells may cause the protein profile to develop toward that of the healthy cells.

Another approach in proteomics determines the biochemical function and structure of a protein to see what parts of a protein molecule are likely to interact with a potential drug. From this information, researchers can design and test new chemical compounds for potential drugs. They can also improve the efficacy of these potential drugs and reduce undesired side effects.

Agilent contributes to research in gene expression and proteomics with application solutions based on key technology platforms—liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, microfluidics (lab-on-a-chip) and microarrays. This research is expected to open entirely new vistas into complex biological processes related to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Agilent offers a wide range of instruments, consumables, systems and services to help scientists acquire and interpret genetic and chemical information from sample handling, to analysis, to data management and reporting. In 2001, we built on our leadership in the chemical, petrochemical and environmental markets while increasing our focus on offerings to the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and bioagricultural markets. Our life sciences business performed quite well in a tough economic year.

Biotech and pharmaceutical -- from research to prescription

DNA microarrays consist of microscopic sets of DNA fragments attached to a glass slide. When genetic material from diseased cells is applied to the microarray, copies of expressed genes characteristic of the diseased functions will bind to the array, allowing scientists to define disease pathways and identify new drug targets.
Agilent's DNA microarray scanner—an automated, walkaway scanner that images up to 48 standard 1-inch x 3-inch microarray glass slides—allows researchers to monitor genes in order to better understand the cause of disease and, in turn, help find new cures.
This computer output illustrates how Agilent's alliance with Rosetta Inpharmatics provides researchers with bioinformatics tools that enable researchers to store, retrieve and analyze the large quantities of data generated by microarrays.
Lab-on-a-chip technology (microfluidics), pioneered by our collaboration partner Caliper Technologies, enables researchers to perform multiple laboratory functions on a small disposable LabChip® device.
The Agilent 1100 Series LC/MSD Trap, a high- performance ion trap mass spectrometer, is a powerful tool for proteomics and drug discovery. It can identify minute quantities of proteins, drugs and other organic compounds based on their molecular masses and chemical structures.
Agilent 1100 Series liquid chromatographs combine modules and software into well-integrated systems that address a wide range of analytical problems includ- ing disease and drug discovery, pharmaceutical quality control, environmental testing and forensics.
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