Early detection of cancer and bacterial infections saves lives; an emerging technology that enables rapid diagnoses of these conditions is called metabolic flux analysis. We have developed synthetic techniques that enable this technology by producing the necessary chemical reagents. These required molecules (13C-labelled metabolites) are highly specialized and challenging to produce, with some currently costing hundreds of dollars for an amount less than a grain of sand. Based on a decade of research experience and nearly a million dollars in research funding from agencies including NSF and NASA, we have developed the technology to directly replicate a fundamental biological pathway to these intermediates that avoids costly enzymes or fermentation. These techniques decrease the synthetic costs of the labelled metabolites by over an order of magnitude.
13C–labeled organic compounds with biological relevance are expensive and have limited availability. Their value derives from their utility in metabolomics research in both academia and industry, and their use as diagnostic agents required for 13C-MFA (metabolic flux analysis). We have developed a synthetic methodology to replicate specific biological pathways that can be completed in a chemistry flask in hours. Our process is far more flexible than current technologies, allowing us to create thousands of analogs that are unavailable by any method.
Due to the increasing view that many cancers can be classified as metabolic disorders, as well as the greatly enhanced recognition of the importance of the GI microbiome to health, the need for compounds that allow metabolic analysis is increasing. Coupled with advances in the resolution power of mass spectral analysis and magnetic resonance imaging, we foresee this being an opportune time to provide 13C-metabolites at lower cost with a vastly expanded library of products. The current market for stable isotopes is valued at 320 million US$ (2018, MarketWatch.com) and is expected to reach 400 million by 2025. We are seeking to partner with academic, industrial, and healthcare institutions on the front line of cancer research to expand the technology to the diagnosis of rare cancers and metabolic disorders.