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A novel method of characterising lipid molecules (fats) developed by University of Wollongong researchers has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Invented by researchers within the Schools of Chemistry and Health Sciences, the method of Ozone Induced Dissociation (known as "OzID") provides detailed information about molecular structure that is unavailable from traditional methods of mass spectrometry (converting particles into ions).

As UOW’s research commercialisation partner, UniQuest has played a key role in helping the scientific team reach this milestone and attract further interest in OzID’s development from industry partners.

"OzID first harnesses the power of mass spectrometry to separate one compound out of literally hundreds on the basis of mass, then uses ozone like a pair of molecular scissors to cut the molecule at a particular position, namely a double bond. This allows us to unambiguously assign the structure of the compound and importantly differentiate molecules that differ only by the position of their double bonds," said OzID co-inventor Associate Professor Stephen Blanksby.

"Examples of molecules where this analysis will be particularly useful are lipids where the double bond position, usually labelled as omega-3, omega-6, etc, can have a dramatic effect on nutritional or physiological properties."

OzID has been performance-trialled in a research collaboration between UOW and AB Sciex, a company which specialises in life science analytical technologies. Findings from this research have been accepted for publication in the Journal of The American Society for Mass Spectrometry, the peak journal in the field.

"Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer have all been linked to altered lipid metabolism." said Dr Todd Mitchell, another OzID researcher.

"Improving our understanding of the role of lipids in these illnesses may lead to better ways to prevent or manage such disease states."

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the granting of a US patent gives the novel technology a significant boost in Intellectual Property value.

“US patents for Australian innovations not only give credence to the quality of research undertaken at our universities – they provide potential investors and licensees with confirmation that the commercial value of the idea is well-protected whilst the technology is being prepared for a world-wide market launch,” Mr Henderson said.

“We congratulate the University of Wollongong team on this milestone and look forward to facilitating the ongoing discussions between the researchers and various potential commercial partners to accelerate the transfer of this exciting new technique into patient outcomes.”

The granted US patent (US Patent No. 7,771,943) represents the first of a number of patent rights sought for this invention in major jurisdictions.