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Abbott Laboratories buys UI-licensed virtual biotechnology company

Jeff Unger, News Editor
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign today announced the sale of a UI-licensed virtual biotechnology company to Abbott Laboratories for $7 million. The company, BioDisplay Technologies Inc., was founded to commercialize technology that dramatically shortens the time it takes to discover various drugs that can be tested for their potential therapeutic application.

The technology was developed by former UI chemical engineering professor K. Dane Wittrup (now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), UI biochemistry professor David M. Kranz, and their graduate students beginning in 1996.

"We are delighted that Abbott Laboratories is our partner in this venture," said Chancellor Nancy Cantor. "Abbott has more than 1,000 Illinois alumni on its roster and the world-class expertise to realize the potential of yeast-display technology. The university looks forward to further collaboration with Abbott."

The yeast-display methodology uses a process called flow cytometry that provides high-through-put screening, which in turn speeds the process of directed drug discovery.

"Yeast display allows us to genetically engineer improved proteins and antibodies as candidate pharmaceuticals that can target specific diseases with far fewer side effects," Kranz said. "By expressing the antibody on the surface of a yeast cell, we can create a library of a million different mutated antibodies in days, and then pull out the best ones."

BioDisplay Technologies was incorporated by the researchers in 1998 to further develop and license the patented technology. Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Abbott will also sublicense the technology to other companies for various applications, including human health, agriculture and industrial enzymes.

"We are very pleased to have acquired this cutting-edge technology platform in the development of fully human antibodies by bringing viable drug candidates to the pipeline faster, leading to more effective therapies for patients," said Robert Kamen, divisional vice president of Pharmaceutical Discovery, Abbott Laboratories, and president of Abbott Bioresearch Center.

Abbott Laboratories is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals, nutritionals, and medical products, including devices and diagnostics. The company employs approximately 70,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries. Abbott’s news releases and other information are available on the company’s Web site: