FOSTER CITY, Calif.—Applied Biosystems Inc. and San Diego-based Invitrogen announced in early June a marketing alliance that will offer a suite of labeling products for proteomics researchers that includes Applied Bio's ITRAQ and ICAT reagents and Invitrogen's newly-released metabolomic labeling technology SILAC. Under the terms of the agreement, each company will sell all three products to its core customers and will provide both ABI and Invitrogen with a broader reach into the proteomics and mass spec markets.
"We have a very strong customer base among our instrument-installed base, which are largely the proteomics core labs," says Charlie Purtell, senior director of business development for Applied Biosystems. "But we saw an opportunity for broader applicability of the tagging technology reaching into the biologist community. So we were trying to identify appropriate channel partners to extend our reach, because our reach typically doesn't extend beyond our mass spec customer base. That led us to consider Invitrogen, because they are a recognized leader especially in the biologist community."
For Invitrogen, the opportunity to team with Applied Bio was equally compelling. According to Evangeline Gonzalez, business area manager for protein purification ID and quantitation for Invitrogen, the company recognized early in the development of SILAC that it was complementary to ABI's tagging products.
"SILAC works with cell culture only, driven off the GIBCO media, which is our strong point," she says. "Their products are chemical labeling for tissue or serum. So we are finding that many customers want to buy both iTRAQ and SILAC and validate them against each other for different samples."
Seeds for the business agreement were sown at the beginning of the year, while Invitrogen was still in the process of developing SILAC for its eventual launch last month at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Conference in San Antonio, Texas. While both companies have largely divergent customer bases, it didn't take the management at Applied Bio long to see how well SILAC meshed with their protein expression and tagging technologies. "When we launched SILAC at ASMS and the agreement for selling this suite of products, it made it look like (both companies) had been working together for a very long time," says Gonzalez.
One reason for that was SILAC was already compatible with ABI's TOF/TOF family of products, including its newly-launched 4800 MALDI TOF/TOF Analyzer. In addition, plans are in the works to extend software support for the SILAC labeling technology to other Applied Biosystems/MDS SCIEX protein mass spec systems.
Tony Hunt, senior director of consumables at Applied Biosystems says ABI has noted over the past four years that more of the core labs' customers are biologists who are sending samples for mass spec.
"We will be working with Invitrogen on joint seminars that bring both the core labs and the biologists together to educate them on the benefits of tagging technologies."