Label-free: The way to be?

SBS hosts symposium on label-free technologies

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SAN DIEGO—The advent of label-free technologies (LFT) hasaroused so much interest in the research arena that the Society forBiomolecular Sciences (SBS) hosted a symposium on the topic Nov. 2-3 here. Thesymposium, attended by the companies that appear on this page in addition to awide range of biophysical scientists and biologists, was designed to addressinterest in plate-based label-free technologies (PBLFT) as well as other LFTsuch as NMR, X-ray, SPR, MS and other emerging LF technologies that are beingused to address some of the current challenges the pharma, biotech and drugdiscovery industries.
According to Dr. Lance Laing, director of bioapplications atSRU Biosystems and a program chair for the symposium, LFT is gaining tractionin the market because of the rise in interest of primary cells, morechallenging protein targets and the desire to translate results between thetwo.
"A platform that may offer results for many disease programcases receives high interest," Laing says. "Historically, LFT has been appliedto characterization of protein-protein interactions, particularly in theantibody or immune-derived protein characterization applications where accuratebinding affinity and kinetics are important and labels are either noteconomical or risk perturbing native interactions. More importantly in thepresent case, concerning plate-based LFT (PBLFT), there is always a market fortools that allow scientists to do work that they are otherwise unable to complete,especially if there is some economic advantage as well."
In fact, Laing says that although adoption rates for LFThave been quite high, they might be higher except for the current economicclimate in pharma and biotechs and the effect on capital equipment budgets.
"The response from the audience was above expectations forthe most part; they were more interested and learned more than they expected,"Laing adds.
Philippe Mourere, director of marketing and sales forCaliper Life Sciences, says the symposium was a "great opportunity" forCaliper, which sees LFT as "an evolving and flexible option."
"LFT will give you a fairly complex response andcontent-rich information," Mourere says. "Your challenge as a drug discovereris to understand the information you are getting from the screening. This canbe done using the conventional arsenal of assays. If you get a complex signalto analyze, you can run additional assays. If you try to understand thespecificity of a drug—if your drug is affecting a particular receptor in yourlabel-free assay—what you will get is an answer for the specificity of yourdrug. You will also see how other targets will be affected by the treatment onthe cell. Understanding off-target affects helps to predict potential side effects.It can also be used to potentially uncover new targets for a drug candidate."
Nance Hall, vice president and general manager of theAutomation and Detection Solutions business at PerkinElmer, notes thatPerkinElmer doesn't believe that LFT will replace the technology that iscurrently available, but rather, "will complement the present technologies thatare out there."
"Working without labels can accelerate research byminimizing false hits and eliminating false positives and negatives and some ofthe hindrances researchers typically experience in their analysis," Hall says."LFT enables researchers to analyze what they want to be analyzing, not what wecall 'the junk.'"
SBS is already planning a future LFT symposium based on thesuccess of the November program.

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