VANCOUVER, British Columbia—After six years of work, Kinexus Bioinformatics Corp. recently launched its first Internet accessible, cell signaling proteomics database, KiNET, with built-in bioinformatics searching capabilities.
The database features over 200,000 measurements of the expression levels and phosphorylation states of hundreds of signal transduction proteins from hundreds of different biological specimens, including over 200 tumor cell lines. This allows subscribing clients to search KiNET to plan out their next research project, discover potential drug targets and biomarkers for disease, or to better understand which pathways are regulated in response to various drugs and other treatments.
The proteins tracked in KiNET are reportedly critical for the operation of all cell and tissue types, as their malfunction has been linked to more than 400 diseases including cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
KiNET stands out from other proteomics and genomics databases in the market because it "is the world's only functional proteomics database," according to the company.
"There are databases publicly accessible that allow users to get plenty of information about gene expression, and they might be called functional genomics databases, but that's a bit of a misnomer and they are not that good for researchers for a couple reasons," insists Dr. Steven Pelech, president and founder of Kinexus and a professor at the University of British Columbia.
First, he says, the gene expression data from those sources is not quantitative, so that poses difficulties to researchers in comparing results across experiments. Second, he says, the other databases focus on measuring levels of messenger RNA to indicate protein levels in samples. But Dr. Pelech says the presence of the messenger RNA doesn't necessarily mean a protein is being made. In fact, he says, the correlation between actual protein and the level of messenger RNA is 15 percent or poorer.
"Also, with information from these other databases, you just don't know whether a protein is in an active state or not, but you do with KiNET," he says. "To us, 'functional' means how much protein is present in an active state. The phenotypes being studied are related to the active proteins, not the proteins in general."
Dr. Pelech says the subscription rate for KiNET is very low for the value of the data, noting that academic researchers can access it for $1,000 and companies for $2,000 a year. The main reason they charge at all for the database, he says, is that they want it to be a sustainable database that will grow into millions of data points.
"Over 95 percent of the KiNET data is unpublished and not available elsewhere," Dr. Pelech say. "It was produced in-house using the same reagents and methodology by our highly experienced scientists and technicians to ensure that it is fully comparable. You get your results from us for an experiment, and you can turn it around and compare it to other experiments in the database with full confidence that the comparisons are valid, rather than wondering if one experiment used less effective reagents or different standards than yours did."
Several pharmaceutical companies have expressed an interest in licensing the KiNET database in-house, Kinexus reports.