Marshall University institute partners with biotechnology leader IDT

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) has announced it has entered into an applied research and product development partnership with leading biotechnology company Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT).

According to the terms of the agreement, scientists at MIIR will be developing optimized biomolecular analyses or "assays" to be used by IDT for the detection and quantification of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The goal of the co-development project is to significantly improve the specificity of IDT’s current assay methods without substantially increasing the cost.

IDT’s custom synthesized DNA and RNA products are used by researchers around the world to help develop diagnostic tests for diseases like breast cancer and AIDS, to conduct research to discover new drugs or treatments for a variety of diseases, and to produce safer and more plentiful agricultural products.

Dr. Mark Behlke, IDT’s chief scientific officer, said, "IDT is very excited to be working with a world-class organization like MIIR.  This collaboration will allow us to decrease the time required to commercialize an exciting new platform technology developed at IDT for use in quantitative nucleic acid detection."

Dr. Eric Kmiec, director of MIIR and the institute’s lead research scientist, said, "We are honored an industry leader like IDT has selected us to develop and test a product for them. In effect, the agreement endorses our institute’s innovative platform technology approach. There is definitely a niche out there for what we do."

Dr. Joan Wilson, who joined MIIR last summer as a senior scientist, will be responsible for executing the IDT project. Her research group at MIIR focuses on identifying non-coding RNA disease biomarkers and developing non-coding RNA-based tools for gene regulation and genome manipulation.

Kmiec said Wilson’s experience in the fast-growing field of non-coding RNA biology was what attracted IDT.

"It’s really a perfect fit," he said. "IDT recognized the market potential for these optimized assays but did not have the resources to pursue the technology on its own. We have the facilities, and in Dr. Wilson we recruited the type of scientist who does cutting-edge research coupled with platform-based technology development. She’s only been here at Marshall for a few months and already our focus and investment in this emerging area of science are beginning to pay off."

Wilson said, "Creative opportunities like this are one of the reasons I chose to join MIIR. It is incredibly exciting to be associated with IDT. Their commitment to quality and innovation is unrivaled. I look forward to working with them to help develop critical RNA-focused research tools and to further MIIR’s involvement in this high-impact field."

Kmiec said the agreement with IDT further validates the vision Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp had when he formed the institute to promote regional biotechnology entrepreneurship, adding that the project will become the basis for expanding MIIR’s relationship with IDT and other high-tech companies. He said that eventually the entire region will see economic development benefits from spinouts and other businesses formed as a direct result of research done at the institute.

As part of MIIR’s workforce training emphasis, summer internships are available for students who want to gain hands-on biotechnology skills. Interested students should call the institute at 304-696-3830.

About MIIR

The Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) enables commercially relevant bioscience activity by affording companies the opportunity to develop and mature promising new technologies and products in the university environment. Research at the institute is directed with licensable endpoints in mind and corporate partners play important roles in selecting and developing projects that have commercial potential. The mission of the institute, which was created through the state’s "Bucks for Brains" West Virginia Research Trust Fund, is to advance regional economic development, student education and workforce training. For more information, visit

About IDT

Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) is the largest supplier of custom nucleic acids in the United States, serving academic, government and commercial researchers in biotechnology, clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical development. IDT’s primary business is the manufacture of custom, synthetic DNA and RNA oligonucleotides. Today, IDT synthesizes and ships an average of 36,000 custom oligos per day to more than 86,000 customers worldwide. IDT manufacturing locations include facilities in Coralville, Iowa, San Diego, California, and Leuven, Belgium. For more information, visit

Photo Caption:  Through an agreement with biotechnology leader IDT, Dr. Joan Wilson, senior scientist at the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, left, and Mindy Applegate, research associate, will be optimizing biomolecular assays for the company’s line of custom synthesized DNA and RNA products. Photo by Steve Shaluta.


Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964