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ST. LOUIS—Some would say that character is everything; for Sigma-Aldrich, as it begins to offer new antibodies to the proteomics and cell biology research communities, characterization is everything.
In mid-February, Sigma-Aldrich announced an exclusive partnership with Atlas Antibodies to distribute Prestige Antibodies—developed by the Human Proteome Resource—a line that consists of 1,800 antibodies right now, with many more to come. Sigma-Aldrich is calling the Prestige line "the most highly characterized library of antibodies on the market." Each is accompanied by more than 500 histological images publicly available at the Human Protein Atlas and, because they are optimized for a single protocol, they are said to be especially valuable for high-throughput research, saving researchers both time and money.
"These are not your average antibodies," says Dr. David Smoller, president of the Research Biotech unit at Sigma-Aldrich. "The problem with antibodies in the reagent world is that a lot of them don't work. These ones not only work, but it's the way they were characterized to show that they work in actual biology. They weren't just characterized with Westerns and ELISAs but also tested against 500 or so different tissues to show localization and such. They are validated for specificity like no other antibodies."
Through this partnership with Atlas, Sigma-Aldrich is granted exclusive distribution rights in the U.S. and all regions outside of Europe, with co-exclusive distribution rights in Europe. The plan is to grow the library by several thousand antibodies per year with a goal of producing at least one antibody to all 22,000 non-redundant human proteins by 2015.
"Sigma-Aldrich offers a recognized brand name and an established distribution network that will help us bring our antibodies to market," says Marianne Hansson, co-founder and CEO of Atlas Antibodies, a biotech company established in 2006 to produce the antibodies identified by the Human Proteome Resource (HPR). The HPR, in turn, is a major component of HUPO, the Human Proteome Organization, which is systematically exploring the human proteome using antibody-based proteomics. "This partnership will enable Atlas Antibodies to reach all of the proteomics and cell biology researchers who will benefit from the unprecedented specification of the Prestige Antibodies."
"There are a lot of reasons Atlas saw value in us," says Smoller, "including I think the fact that they recognized we aren't your father's Sigma-Aldrich anymore—if I can swipe Oldsmobile's tagline. "We're really moving from mostly chemistry to innovations in things like RNAi and whole genome amplification. We're really tied into proteomics right now—really, all the '-omics' when you get down to it."
Sigma wants to be the content leader for antibodies, Smoller says, and this deal with Atlas is just the first step. Over the next several months, he expects to be announcing not only new technologies in this area but also new content deals to build on the Prestige line.
"This is a major brick in us building Sigma into the place to go not only to get your antibodies, but to get antibodies that work right out of the box," Smoller says. "We don't want to have just a comprehensive suite of reagents but ones that are truly enabling."