Does anybody remember when the first calculators came out? They were hundreds of dollars. Until they came down in price they were never embraced by the general public. When new technologies develop, there are often two separate lives they go through. The first is what I will describe as the breakthrough. This is when a technology has shown proven value but is too expensive to bring to market. The Second Life begins when the technology matures to the point where it makes financial sense to bring it to market. This is when it starts to grow and thrive.
Let's take the electric car as an example.
The electric car was and still is a good idea. The only problem is-- they aren't selling. General Motors Co's Chevrolet Volt suffers from weak sales and there have been several electric vehicle related startups that have ended up in bankruptcy.
Even though the concept is great, the price of the technology is keeping it out of the hands of the consumer. Batteries can run anywhere from $12k to $15k-- a third of the price of the car. Even though we have a good idea, the cars don't go far enough and they are too expensive for the average consumer to embrace.
After the same manner, there is a technology that has been around for a few years that has yet to be fully embraced by its market. This technology is called "pressure cycling technology" or PCT for short. Things are about to change in the global Systems Biological Study industry and PCT is about to see global expansion.
And Emerging Sample Preparation Strategy for Systems Biological Study
Sonicators, Homogenizers, Silica Beads and mortar/pestle grinding have been the "go to" means for biological study sample preparation for study up to now.
Pressure Cycling Technology was pioneered by a small company called Pressure BioSciences, Inc. (OTCQB: PBIO) and brings quality, accuracy and safety to the extraction of nucleic acids, proteins and small molecules (all of which are essential in the discovery process) on a level that has never been achieved before. The method is also versatile because it can be used for animal, plant, microbe and even human cells or tissue. The PCT system is superior to current extraction methods, and there are over 100 publications from a "who's who" list of scientists who say so.
The system is comprised of two components; a Barocycler instrument and single use, consumable processing containers called Pulse Tubes. The whole system is based on a new, patented way of using pressure, and lots of it. The Barocycler can generate pressure from ambient (normal) to 35,000 psi and then back in a matter of seconds, and that is important because everything in nature can be exquisitely controlled with pressure. The Barocycler chamber can also be temperature controlled, which adds to its ability to uniquely control the cells and its parts (proteins, lipids, etc.). The design of the system reduces cross-contamination and the risk of exposure to the user, this is very important to scientists worldwide.
Present Challenges to Systems Biological Study
One of the greatest hindrances to systems biological study is the integration of complex data from multiple analytical sources. In their quest to paint a comprehensive picture of an organism's biological state under certain environmental conditions, systems biologists accumulate data from all sorts of different studies.
This is the popular method of the day, but also has limiting qualities. It would be nice if "data" could all be collected from one sample. Unfortunately traditional sample preparation methods have biologists extracting one type of chemical constituent from the sample at the expense of losing others. Volume could be another constraint that they run across.
The solution has been to rely on information that has been collected from replicated experiments and similar data already reported. This creates limitations because it increases uncertainty because the designs of the analysis are never perfectly the same. Because of this, there are often gaps in information that is collected, as well as discontinuity in the various pieces of data from various sources. Often, harsh chemicals or high-energy sterilization procedures are introduced into samples that are highly pathogenic. This can have a damaging effect upon the analytes too.
Pressure Cycling Technology (PCT) does not make a researcher commit to a specific component, nor does it degrade the targeted material. Because of this, PCT conditions have led to yield's with a more complete set of components (thus, a better chance to make a discovery). The high pressure environment creates a "uniform disruption" and the outcome is better, with higher quality results. The procedure sterilizes and extracts complex or pathogenic viral, bacterial and spore samples without adversely affecting the constituent's biomolecules which provide the invaluable data. For a research scientist this is the best of both worlds - better results, greater safety.
Studies Have Touted its Superiority
There have been numerous studies that have shown how well PCT works compared to traditional "Sample Preparation Systems" (SPS). Here are a few examples.
Forensics- DNA Extraction from Bone
Forensic scientists can extract DNA from bone for further analysis in almost 1/10 of the time it takes to use the standard extraction method of pulverization. PCT treatment typically takes 2-4 hours while the standard method takes 24 hours or more. There is no need for pulverizing or strong organic solvents. The PUSLE Tubes also offer a reduced risk of cross contamination.
Extracting DNA from Plant Tissue
Dr. Susan McCouch's laboratory at Cornell University proved that the PCT System could be used to extract DNA from a wide variety of plants and plant tissues. It removes the need for labor-intensive mechanical disruption of the plant tissue and eliminates the likelihood of cross-contamination with the use of the PULSE Tubes.
Extracting Protein and RNA from Small Solid Tissue Samples
The homogenization and extraction of tissue samples have relied upon mechanical disruption or mortar and pestle grinding in the past. Unfortunately, this is a challenge when researchers get small samples because there is a large amount of loss during processing and transfer. Single disposable PULSE Tubes in the PCT System have been shown to reduce the likelihood of sample loss as well as minimize cross-contamination. Since conventional equipment is not needed, the processing time also has been greatly reduced.
In these three studies, we find different benefits of pressure cycling technology:
- It is faster
- It is more versatile
- Its' efficiency is shown to be better in smaller samples that are often harder to process with traditional means
- It is better at preventing cross-contamination
The PCT technology has been shown by many well known labs to be much better than other sample preparation methods being used today. Like the electric car, it looks like it has been proven to be better for its market (estimated to be about $6 billion), yet like the electric car, it has not been embraced on a grand scale. That may change in the very near future.
The original PCT system continues to be used in small important research studies, but the individual test tubes and the requirement for handling samples manually has hindered larger scale sales. Even though studies have shown that the PCT platform offers significant advantages in preparing biomolecules for analysis, the popular platform today is the high throughput (NYSE:HT) multi-well plates that allow for automation and an unattended approach.
When researchers can do multiple "sampling" at the same time today in an automated fashion, it's hard for the market to be interested in a manually-intensive single tube system, even when it offers significant advantages over competitive methods. This is what has kept the technology from being fully embraced by the global systems biological study market.
But unlike the electric car, PCT has found its "Second Life" and is about to raise the eyebrows of the systems biological study community.
The Game Changing Technology
After much research, PBIO has developed a breakthrough technology for use in its pressure cycling platform that uses an HT system. The "High Throughput System" is a HT multi well format that utilizes pressure cycling technology (PCT).
There are an estimated 80,000 research laboratories working with biological samples worldwide. Many of them use the automated universal (HT) sample preparation system in their studies. These machines are $500k to $1000k and the PBIO HT system will attach right to their machines.
Will these research laboratories invest an extra $50k in this new and more efficient technology? What are the benefits?
I believe the bottom line is a breakthrough in research. While the investment may seem like a lot of money, it will add speed, efficiency and better analytical results than older traditional methods. Perhaps more importantly, the use of the PCT system has been shown to result in the extraction and recovery of proteins and lipids not extracted and recovered by other current methods. Imagine the value to a scientist in finding a protein or a lipid in a sample that is not found in that sample using other methods.
Imagine two people of the same age. Both have had the same type and stage of cancer but one responded to treatment and lived while the other did not. Why did this happen? This is what researchers are trying to answer on a cellular (DNA and protein) level. The PCT system will bring better analyte data to answer that question than ever before. It only takes one breakthrough to make the difference for that lab and that company - and that patient. Researchers will be able to do their work with better results at a faster pace. This is the reason the PCT technology will work.
The list of companies, laboratories and agencies that are interested in, and will use this technology lists like a "who's who" of the biotech industry. Companies like Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Merck (NYSE:MRK) and Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB). Different School like UCLA, Harvard, and Stanford has already expressed interest in the technology. Scientists in pharma, biotechnology, academia and government will use it because of its versatility.
If you are an investor who enjoys following technology and looking for the next "breakthrough technology" to invest in, pressure cycle technology, with a proven track record in over 150 labs, and its recent breakthrough into high throughput, looks like it's about to grow up. All great technologies: the calculator; the computer; the smart phone… And many more were birthed from an idea and then had a time of maturity until the technology could make financial sense to bring to the markets. I believe PCT is at that point. I would definitely watch the technology and company-- Pressure BioSciences.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.