Honors Gallery

Transfer of PNNL’s Structures for Lossless Ion Manipulations to MOBILion

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2018

Award Type: National

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

Advances in medicine are hindered by the ability to quickly distinguish the presence, structure, and abundance of different compounds in a sample.

The standard technology to analyze molecular compounds at levels of interest in biological samples is generally slow, complex, cumbersome, and expensive; and it lacks the specificity and sensitivity to clearly distinguish among compounds with similar mass but different structures. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Structures for Lossless Ion Manipulations (SLIM) breaks through these analysis boundaries. At 1,000 times faster than typical liquid chromatography methods, SLIM’s unprecedented sensitivity can identify trace amounts of similar molecules with different structures in even complex samples containing many different compounds and as small as a single cell.

PNNL began discussions about SLIM with IP Group in 2015. IP Group’s mission is to evolve great ideas into world-changing businesses. At the time, its engagement with PNNL and other national laboratories represented the company’s first attempt to go beyond its traditional sourcing of technology opportunities from universities.  Following an early-stage technology exploration, IP Group invested and formed a startup company called MOBILion Systems, Inc., in December 2016. In addition to incorporating the new company, IP Group also provided substantial initial funding (approximately $4.25 million) to MOBILion to cover its startup costs and support additional research and development work at PNNL. MOBILion exclusively licensed SLIM in various fields in January 2017. The SLIM platform is the premiere technology of the organization.

The PNNL/MOBILion collaboration is a testimony to innovation in meeting the unique needs of a startup company. From concept to product, PNNL provided MOBILion with the information, staff, and industry experience to move quickly through the product development process.

PNNL scientists and the commercialization manager worked extensively with the startup—from first discussions to identify the technology, to negotiating an option and license agreement that fit company needs, to continuing research and development to expedite product development. Through its new entrepreneurial leave-of-absence program, PNNL enabled a staff member to transfer to MOBILion, providing a bridge to help MOBILion develop a commercial prototype. PNNL scientists also advised on appropriate laboratory space and equipment needed to further develop SLIM. IP Group and MOBILion were continuously collaborating with PNNL throughout the process, providing commercial perspectives for product development and patenting, and in funding research and development. This continuous collaboration substantially shortened product development time.

SLIM has the potential to foster analyses never before thought possible, ushering in the age of personalized medicine. SLIM should enhance the clinician’s ability to predict, diagnose, and treat diseases, thus improving patient outcomes and saving lives. It builds on PNNL’s legacy of advancing analytical instrumentation and provides economic development opportunities locally and nationwide. It also fulfills IP Group’s mission to evolve great ideas into world-changing businesses, in this case through MOBILion.

Contact: Dr. Richard Smith, (509) 371-6576, [email protected]