First SBIR Grant for Commercialization of Dynamic Nuclear Polarization Awarded to Bridge12 for it’s Terahertz Research
Cambridge, Mass. – October 25, 2010 – Bridge12 Technologies (Bridge12), a leading provider of terahertz technology for applications in science, medicine, security and defense, today announces it has received the first small business innovation research (SBIR) grant for the commercialization of dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) enhanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. DNP accelerates experiments that typically require several weeks to be performed in minutes.
Unlike alternative solutions that are limited to 400 MHz, Bridge12’s novel gyrotron design can be used for high-resolution NMR spectrometers operating at frequencies up to 800 MHz, which are much better suited for analyzing protein structures. Where other solutions require expensive proprietary equipment, Bridge12’s gyrotron can be retrofitted to existing spectrometers and requires no changes to the facility’s layout. Structure determination of proteins at atomic resolution by solid-state NMR (SSNMR) spectroscopy is a time-consuming, iterative process. Signal intensities are typically very small due to the very small gyromagnetic ratio of the nuclei under study, such as 1H, 2H, 13C, and 15N. However, free electrons possess a magnetic moment that is 660 times larger than that of protons. In a DNP experiment this polarization can be transferred to surrounding nuclei by radiating the sample with terahertz radiation to boost NMR signal intensities. With DNP, experiments that typically require several weeks of signal averaging can be performed in minutes. This acceleration is of great value in structural biology, pharmaceutical research and material science. The SBIR grant was awarded through a special solicitation from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of over US$300,000 over a 2-year period. “SBIR Phase I grants typically range from about $100,000 to $150,000. We were excited to receive over $300,000, substantially more than many other large SBIR Phase I grants,” says Dr. Thorsten Maly, a Bridge12 founder and principal investigator for the project. “This demonstrates that the National Cancer Institute appreciates the importance of turn-key, commercial terahertz sources to accelerate academic and commercial research.”
The proposed research is directed at designing and demonstrating a compact, costeffective, tunable 2nd-harmonic gyrotron for DNP-enhanced solid-state NMR spectroscopy at 600 MHz. The system scales to match solid-state NMR systems up to 800 MHz and can be installed without requiring changes to the current layout of NMR facilities. It can be retrofitted cross-platform, allowing the upgrade of existing SSNMR systems, and enabling the proliferation of solid-state DNP/NMR to a wider audience at a reasonable cost. The heart of the system is a compact, tunable terahertz source, which also has potential use for in-vivo imaging, cancer diagnosis and its therapy.
“Most scientists have not been able to take advantage of DNP due to the lack of affordable, turn-key terahertz sources,” says Dr. Jagadishwar Sirigiri, a Bridge12 founder and principal investigator for the project. “We want to make DNP available to a larger community to fuel ideas that solve today’s pressing issues in cancer research and other areas.”