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Mass Spec for DNA Analysis? ABRFers Hear from the Experts

DENVER, Feb. 12 -- In spite of this meeting's usual protein analysis focus, mass spec applications for DNA analysis seem to have stolen the show at the Association for Biomolecular Resource Facilities conference here this week.


While the three-day agenda features scientific sessions, tutorials, and roundtables covering current core lab technology, as well as concerns such as microarray analysis, real-time PCR, and structural proteomics, two key lectures apprised attendees of emerging approaches for analyzing DNA with MALDI-TOF technology.


In the meeting's opening plenary lecture on Tuesday, Sequenom CSO Charles Cantor impressed listeners with a presentation he described as "anti-proteomics" with data from Sequenom's whole-genome SNP-scanning experiments performed on the company's chip-based mass spec technology. Cantor said the company has validated its targeted SNP discovery results against Sanger Center data and is now collaborating with scientists from GlaxoSmithKline to develop disease-gene-associated SNP assays. Cantor said that a mass spec pooling approach, which measures an average genotype from an ethnic sample pool, requires much less DNA and, at under $500,000, is much less costly than other whole-genome scan approaches.


In a sequel to Cantor's remarks, MALDI-TOF inventor Franz Hillenkamp of the University of Muenster in Germany (who also acts as a consultant to Sequenom) presented a talk titled "Is there a role for MALDI in genomics?" Hillenkamp spoke after he and co-inventor Michael Karas were honored with the ABRF Award for outstanding contributions to biomolecular technologies. Dressed in black tie for the 11 a.m. awards ceremony, Hillenkamp remarked that he considered the last challenge in his career to be proving "that MALDI is useful not just for proteins but for DNA."

Meeting co-chairman Scott Patterson, who recently left his post as head of proteomics at Celera to become CSO at Farmal Biomedicines, told GenomeWeb that his goal was to create a meeting itinerary that helps scientists in the field improving the ways they apply particular tools to their particular problems. While there isn't one technique or technology being presented during the scientific sessions or by any of the 453 exhibitors here that could be called a huge leap forward, Patterson said, "there are incremental improvements on a broad array of areas." New applications for mass spec included.

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