Marvels of the Med City: Imanis Life Sciences revolutionizes rep - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Marvels of the Med City: Imanis Life Sciences revolutionizes reporter gene technology

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A company called Imanis Life Sciences was born in Rochester, and continues to use the resources here to revolutionize reporter gene technology. 

"The reason that we're doing this, is because we think this is such an important development that will change the way research is done," said Dr. Stephen Russell, CEO of Imanis Life Sciences. "We realized this gene is phenomenal! You can use it for all kinds of different things."

Imanis Life Sciences, a small biotech start up, is reimagining biomedical research. They're making a kind of GPS technology for cells, genes, and viruses.

"We put our gene, the NIS gene, into whatever the therapy that's being tested is, and we can do imaging studies to determine where it is," said Dr. Russell.

The NIS reporter gene is something naturally found in the thyroid gland of many animals, and naturally glows under certain light due to its properties. Imanis has found a way to attach the NIS gene to cells or viruses being injected into an animal or person for testing.

"This is a non-invasive way of tracking where the genes have been delivered," said Dr. Kah-Whye Peng, COO of the company.

Before Imanis, tracking these experimental cells or viruses was much more difficult and involved killing the animal to examine it.

"You can now quantitate the different lobes of the liver in three-dimensions without killing it," said Dr. Peng. "Its much more tedious to section the liver slice by slice by slice and try to look for it."

Now, one animal can be used for an entire experiment; saving money, time, and animals' lives.

"Now you can know long term in that same animal, two weeks, how that gene expression changes. If the cells now have moved to other places, you can track it. It gives you more powerful data than ever before," said Dr. Peng. 

Within the last few months, Imanis has built its own lab within the Minnesota BioBusiness Center, in the back rooms of its office space. Because Imanis is a company independent of the Mayo Clinic, it's creating new biotech jobs in Rochester. The team said Mayo couldn't be more pleased.

"I love it that it's home grown, it's local, and instead of having to buy from east coast or west coast. So we want to stay right here in Rochester, in Minnesota," Dr. Peng said.

NIS imaging started in 2005 but its potential is still being explored. Imanis was instrumental in the curing of one woman's cancer using a massive dose of measles vaccine back in May. This type of technology has advanced from using Luciferase, the glow in fireflies, for the same experiments. But Luciferase's uses were limited, and the scans were fuzzy.

Now, biomedical research all over the world can streamline their clinical trials thanks to a genius innovation from the Med City. Imanis was the first business to "graduate" per se, from the Mayo Clinic business accelerator, also housed in the BioBusiness center. Dr. Russell and his team hope to continue marketing their product on a wider scale around the country.

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