In 2015, MicroGEM International PLC acquired ZyGEM in New Zealand and MicroLab Diagnostics in the United States. Today, these two research resources drive the company’s innovation, ensuring the ZyGEM family of products addresses the most pressing issues faced by the forensics, agricultural, horticultural and life sciences sectors. Building upon long-standing expertise in useful bioagents extracted from extremophilic organisms, these R&D resources continue to push the frontiers of cutting-edge microfluidics enabled by their fleet of X-GEM reagent kits.
The Culture Collection
ZyGEM NZ is situated in a country with a wide variety of ecological environments. Within New Zealand’s jurisdiction is the Ross Sea region of Antarctica representing unparalleled diversity in the range of environmental climates available for the evolution of unique microbial species. These extreme environments include the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, boiling mud pools, geothermal vents and acid fumaroles.
Painstaking exploration of these extreme environments by dozens of scientists over 20 years has created a proprietary collection of more than 2000 extremophile organisms which include cold temperature fungi of three classes, and a diverse selection of extremely thermophilic Archaea and Bacteria (see Figure 1). All are cultured and many are well characterised.
The extreme environments in which these microorganisms have evolved often reflect the conditions required for many life science research, biotechnology and industrial applications. This creates a fertile source of novel enzymes of scientific interest and significant commercial value. The temperatures at which our organisms were found range from 0ºC to 106ºC and pH 2.8 to 10.9.
MicroGEM owns and has exclusive rights to this portfolio, with over 30 patents registered and a collection of 800 thermophilic bacteria and archaea and 1,500 Antarctic fungal samples. PrepGEM, the basis of the current ZyGEM DNA testing platform, is an enzyme from just one of these thermophilic bacteria. Considerable further potential opportunities exist from a continuing sequencing programme with the remaining Culture Collection.
As part of our R&D program, ZyGEM NZ has commenced sequencing this resource to discover new enzyme activities that enhance our products.
Integrated Microfluidic Technologies
Microfluidics is a critical function in the automation of the processing and testing of samples and the ultimate “lab on a chip.” MicroLab Diagnostics was launched in 2008, using technology, intellectual property and expertise out of the department of chemistry at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, to develop microfluidic technology for rapid DNA analysis for human identification.
Today, MicroLab Diagnostics operates as ZyGEM US, focusing its efforts on creating truly integrated microfluidic technologies that revolutionize DNA analysis for forensic applications. Using a non-solid phase DNA extraction, patented infrared PCR and a unique polymer, the USA team is developing innovative products to improve forensic analysis on both national and international landscapes.