Genetic Engineering News is sort of an odd publication. Primarily a vehicle for big, glossy color ads, it publishes some articles of its own: guest editorials, roundups of news from conferences and trade shows, that sort of thing. And it also publishes plenty of things that are (that have to be) slightly rewritten press releases - the sort of articles that start off:
"InterCap Corp. and SynaDynaGen say that their research collaboration on biosecurity proteomics through RNA interference and four-dimensional mass spectrometry, now with the great taste of fish, is yielding results that will make customers roll over on their backs and pant. Speaking at the Weaseltech Investor's Conference, company spokescreatures vowed to. . ."
One of these in the December issue, though, is weird enough that you can hear the editorial staff wrestling with their better selves. Phrases like "The company claims. . ." and "Company spokesmen maintain. . ." keep running through the whole article. It's titled "Water-Based Nanotech for the Life Sciences", and profiles a small Israeli company called (oddly) DoCoop. What DoCoop is selling is water.
But not just any water. . .Neowater! (Trademarked, natch). This is "a stable system of highly hydrated, inert nanoparticles", which supposedly have thousands of ordered hydration shells around them. This, the company says, modifies the bulk properties of the water. And what does that buy you?
Well, according to the company (there, I'm doing it, too), it will do pretty much everything except change the cat's litter box for you. It makes reactions run faster, at lower concentrations. It improves all biochemical assays and molecular biology techniques - PCR, RNA interference, ELISAs, you name it. Brief mentions are made of delivering molecules directly into cells with the stuff. It has applications in diagnostic kits, in drug delivery, in protein purification, and Cthulu only knows what else.
Some of these claims would seem to directly clash with each other. In the space of a few paragraphs, we hear that Neowater behaves "like a strong detergent", but somehow accelerates the growth of bacteria in culture. But at the same time it also prevents the formation of biofilms. And it increases the potency of antibiotics against bacteria, too. How it manages to do these things simultaneously is left, apparently, as an exercise for the reader.
The company claims that it has plenty of customers, and that it's working with several pharmaceutical companies to develop some of these applications. A search through the literature turned up one European molecular biology paper that mentioned using their PCR enhancing kit, so they've sold some Neowater for sure. But I'd like to turn this one over to the readers: have any of you seen this stuff? Know anyone who uses it?
And is everyone else's crank radar pinging as loudly as mine is? The thing is, unless a superior variety has up and evolved on us, cranks don't usually go out and form their own molecular biology reagent companies and place press releases in Genetic Engineering News. I'm profoundly sceptical of the claims this company makes, but I have the feeling that they're sincere in making them. Very odd, very odd indeed.