Proteome, Agilent expand glycomics partnership

Companies are expanding a 2005 co-marketing agreement into a full-fledged collaboration to develop new workflow solutions for the discovery of diagnostic markers and drug targets by glycomics analysis.

Jeffrey Bouley
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SYDNEY, Australia—Proteome Systems Ltd., a dis­covery, diagnostics and drug development com­pany, and Agilent Technologies, a measurement company with a substantial life sciences business, are expanding a previous co-marketing agree­ment from 2005 into a full-fledged collaboration to develop new workflow solutions for the discovery of diagnostic markers and drug targets by glycom­ics analysis.
Under the deal, Proteome Systems will use its expertise in biomarker discovery to provide Agilent with glycomics applications and software development that can then be used with Agilent's mass spectrometer instruments. Agilent will pro­vide its new, high-sensitivity HPLC/Chip-based 6240 Ion Trap LC/MS system for the mass spec­trometric analysis of protein-associated glycans.
"Over the last few years, we've developed a lot of informatics experience in terms of analyzing sugars, which are attached in a huge number of cell proteins. So there are a big bunch of molecules out there that are important in biomarker discov­ery, but there aren't enough good tools available out there for sample preparation and informatics to analyze them as easily as proteins that don't involve sugars," says Dr. Nicolle Packer, Proteome Systems' program leader in cancer proteomics.
"With glycan analyses, the challenges are much higher than what you already face in pro­teomics," adds Taia Ergueta, general manager of Agilent's Proteomics and LC/MS business, who notes that between 50 percent and 80 percent of proteins are estimated to have post-translational modifications related to glycosylation. "Glycan analysts need equipment and applications for interpretation not only of the pro­teins themselves, but also glycan isomers, attachment sites, relative distribution of isomers, and many other factors that currently are proving to be big obstacles to pro­teomics work."
Packer considers these glycan-related proteins to be "enormously underexploited" in terms of drug discovery because they are key to many biological processes but researchers have not been able to really dig into how they work. She notes, for example, that sugars in proteins change in tumor cells, offering a potentially critical tar­get for diagnosing those changes and targeting them through new therapeutics.
"Also, when you get a bacteri­al infection, just about every one involves a protein-sugar interac­tion, so that's another area besides oncology where there is a potential huge upside of glycan analysis in drug discovery," Packer says.
Immune disorders are yet another key area where glycan analysis could aid in drug discov­ery, Ergueta adds.
"We always knew that we could provide the instrumentation for this kind of proteomics work," she says. " But the fact is that pro­teomics as a whole has not met the expectations that a lot of people had of it precisely because two other key pieces were missing: sample preparation and informat­ics—and that is where Proteome Systems comes in. Their expertise in this area is key for accelerating the ability of more people to do glycan work and glycan analysis and to grow that part of their drug discovery research."

Jeffrey Bouley

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