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.