Playing proteomics tag: Perkin Elmer acquires mass tag technology

BOSTON—PerkinElmer announced it acquired labeling technology from Agilix that uses isobaric mass tags for molecular quantification

Chris Anderson
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BOSTON—PerkinElmer Inc. announced in early March it acquired labeling technology from Connecticut-based Agilix Corp. that uses isobaric mass tags which allow for the quantification of molecules in multiple samples. According to the company, this technology will be especially powerful as a protein expression tool as it will allow researches to effectively measure changes in protein levels over time and in turn provide a better understanding of the functioning of biological systems.
"By and large, until now, you could say that proteomics has been a study of black and white, diseased versus normal, time zero versus time x," says Neil Cook, chief scientific officer of PerkinElmer. "But using this technology, we will now be able to look at many data points across the whole time course and look at the profile with many different proteins across that time course. It will allow researchers to get all the shades of grey that we so far have missed in proteomics."
This most recently acquisition complements recent efforts by PerkinElmer in the biomarker arena including a deal announced earlier this year to license the xMAP bead-based multiplex bioassay technology from Luminex. In both instances the goal is clearly to deliver as rich a data set as possible from single experiments.
"The path we are taking is to look at end-market applications in proteomics research. By talking with key opinion leaders we could see the restrictions of the current approach," says Cook. "So we have been looking at technologies that were platform independent that would release researchers from this constraint."
The isobaric mass tag technology was first pioneered by The Rockefeller University Professor Brian Chait. "The ability to determine changes in the levels of proteins as a fusntion of time and circumstance is vital to gainin an understanding of complex biological systems," says Chait in a news release announcing the deal.
Officials at Agilix, a developer of genomic and proteomics platform technologies for the research community, did not respond to requests for an interview. Its other technologies currently focus on DNA and protein amplification and in vitro molecular cloning of nucleic acids.
As Cook sees it, the collection of data points over time, made possible by the isobaric mass tags, allows researchers to see either increases or decreases in protein expression, information that has, until now, been unavailable to proteomics researchers. Further, the ability to capture multiple data points from a single sample helps provide internal consistency of data compared with serial methods.
PerkinElmer believes this advance will provide a solid market for its labeling kits and other products it has aimed at the fast-growing proteomics and biomarker research market. According to market research firm Business Communications Co., the proteomics market, which stood at $7.8 billion in 2004, is expected to post an average annual growth rate of 17.6 percent and reach $17.5 million by 2009.
Currently, PerkinElmer is bringing to the Agilix technology, called i-PROT, to a select group of researchers who will provide information to help the company develop labeling kits optimized for individual mass spec platforms. No brand name has yet been chosen for the line, which the company expects to begin rolling out within the next six to 12 months.

Chris Anderson

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