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Making Proteins at Warp Speed

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Generating proteins, and lots of ’em, is the name of the game for Joanna Albala, a senior biomedical scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. She says her lab — a handful of people — has a two-pronged mission: to develop proteomic technologies and to look at protein function in high throughput. Hence, she says, her group is taking a close look at protein-chip technology and bead-based technologies that it can use to generate and evaluate proteins from Lawrence Livermore’s massive collection of IMAGE Consortium cDNA clones.

Lately she’s gotten some attention for this work. In October, the proteomics company Phylos signed Albala up for a four-year partnership. Phylos will provide Albala with what she says is “significant funding” to add staff to her lab and to continue work developing a high-throughput process for deriving target proteins from cDNAs. In turn, by early 2002, her team will begin delivering to Phylos on the order of 100 protein targets per quarter.

Albala says the deal is actually the outcome of “a true networking opportunity” at last year’s Chips to Hits meeting in Philadelphia. It was there that executives from Phylos, a Lexington, Mass., developer of protein binders, happened to be on the lookout for a collaborator that could custom deliver target proteins. Albala sat down next to one of them during a luncheon in the exhibit hall.

“We’d been buying protein targets from various sources, but the quality is variable and it’s also not cheap,” Phylos president Ashley Lawton says. “We felt we needed to find a more controlled source of target proteins” to use as substrates when developing binding agents.

— Adrienne Burke

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