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PerkinElmer, Procognia team up for high–throughput protein array
BOSTON—Health science heavyweight PerkinElmer and proteomics technology developer Procognia announced in mid-December a co-marketing agreement that combines PE's Protein Array Workstation and ProScan Array HT with Procognia's U-c lectin array-based platform to create what the two companies contend is the only complete solution for high-throughput, high-resolution protein analysis.
The combined offering allows for the parallel quantitative analysis of up to 20 samples in three hours, without sample purification or pre-treatment and creates a new choice for scientists currently using other protein analysis methods. "Right now [protein analysis] is done sequentially using LCMS and/or a MALDI, which is also a parallel technique," says Sandra Rasmussen, PerkinElmer's business manager for functional genomics and proteomics. "However a MALDI doesn't give you information about the activity of the protein. A MALDI will tell you what peptides are present but it doesn't tell you anything about the activity."
The analysis of the glycosylation, done in near real time, should provide greater understanding of protein function and structure and allow biotech and pharma companies to more accurately target which proteins have the properties needed for their individual operations, says Johanna Griffin, Ph.D., chief commercial officer for U.K.-based Procognia. "You can take your sample directly from the culture medium, you don't need to purify it, (and )put it on the array to get a complete glycoanalysis in about three hours for as many as 20 samples.
"So that generates massive amounts of information that has never been available for people to use in making decisions about which clones to take forward, what culture conditions are needed. This will reduce the number of so-called re-works where the process gets two-thirds of the way down the line only to discover the glycosylation is not right and they need to go back and start all over again. That happens with a fairly high frequency because there has been no tool like this for monitoring the glycosylation. So it should improve the success of getting protein therapeutics to the market."
While Rasmussen sees the greater demand for this capability within big pharma companies, Griffin also sees an important role for glycosylation in the drug discovery arena. "I think this will be used in drug discovery or protein therapeutics since it will allow the scientist to choose clones that are making enough proteins – though maybe not the most – to have glycosylation that provides the biological features in the protein that they are seeking," she says.
Development of the combined offering took nearly two years and began shortly after Procognia's formation in April 2002. "If you think about the protein array market two years ago, it was virtually non-existent," says Rasmussen. "And we also felt that our Protein Array Workstation and ProScan Array were a bit ahead of the market when they were introduced in early 2002."
Around that same time, the managment at Procognia was looking for equipment to help automate their glycoanalysis method. "To do high-throughput automated assays requires automation, and as we looked at the equipment available we felt PerkinElmer had the best instruments to do this." That made Procognia one of the early and largest customers for PE's protein array equipment, which Procognia used over the ensuing two years to tune protocols and optimize performance.
Today, with a burgeoning proteomics market, PerkinElmer believes the day has finally arrived for its protein array instrumentation. "I think once we start penetrating the market and a few of these platforms are in place, and more data is generated, you will see a real increase in interest," says Rasmussen.
While Rasmussen sees the combined technologies as "disruptive" in the protein analysis market, officials at both companies understand it may take some doing to get scientists to drop their current protein analysis methods. "Using this technology and having frequent glycoanalysis is lost on some people because it requires changing the way they do things today. More insightful people within organizations will see this is a huge benefit," says Griffin. "We need to be able to sell it throughout an organization because if are going to change it in cell culture it doesn't do much good if process development isn't also using it."