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With Mass Specs, HSPP Hopes to Put Saliva in Clinic


Despite its accessibility, saliva has traditionally played a secondary role to blood and urine in the clinical testing arena. But scientists involved in the half-year-old Human Salivary Proteome Project say that is about to change, thanks to new technology that allows for greater protein detection sensitivity, and new support and funding from the National Institutes of Health.

According to David Wong, director of the University of California, Los Angeles, division of the HSPP, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has invested $57 million over the past two years for salivary research that involves proteomics.

The grant money is helping to build nanotechnology-based biosensors that can eventually be used for saliva tests, and it is helping to uncover the salivary proteome, which will be used as a basis for diagnostic tests.

The goal of the HSPP is to collect and distribute saliva from five ethnic groups, and to use both bottom-up and top-down proteomic approaches to decipher the complete salivary proteome and complexes associated with the proteome. Biocomputational and bioinformatics approaches will be used to catalogue and annotate the salivary proteome, and to create an HSPP database called the Salivary Proteome Knowledge Base.

To date, the HSPP has catalogued about 330 proteins in the SPKB. Members of the initiative are investigating whether mass-spec-based saliva testing can help diagnose oral cancer, early onset diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Salivary diagnostics have been around for a long time, notes Wong, who is also the associate dean of research at UCLA’s School of Dentistry, but saliva-based tests have not been popular in part because older technologies, such as ELISA tests, have not been sensitive enough to detect the relatively low amounts of potential diagnostic analytes in the fluid.

—Tien-Shun Lee



US Patent No. 6,872,574. Proteomic Analysis. Inventors: Benjamin Cravatt, Erik Sorenson, Matthew Patricelli, Martha Lovato, Gregory Adam. Assignee: The Scripps Research Institute. Issued: March 29, 2005.

The invention provides methods for analyzing proteomes, as cells or lysates. The analysis is based on the use of probes that have specificity to the active form of proteins, particularly enzymes and receptors. The patent describes a method for generating and screening compound libraries that are used for the identification of lead molecules, and for the parallel identification of their biological targets.


US Patent No. 6,864,100. Automated protein purification in the multiwell format by vacuum filtration. Inventors: Joachim Ribbe, Frank Schafer, Kerstin Steinert, Helge Lubenow. Assignee: Qiagen. Issued: March 8, 2005.

The patent consists of a process and reagent kit for obtaining clear solutions containing cell contents from biological samples via a high-throughput method, and a method for recovering cell contents from the clear solutions obtained. The invention involves eliminating insoluble ingredients by filtering solutions through a multi-chamber filtration unit while preventing cross contamination between adjacent chambers by chemical and mechanical means, and collecting individual filtrates separately in collecting containers.



$18 billion

Irish market research firm Research and Markets predicts the value of the proteomic technology market will increase from $6 billion in 2005 to $18 billion by 2015, with the largest expansion in bioinformatics and protein biochip technologies.

Netherlands-based information-technology service provider Ordina will collaborate to develop diagnostics services based on proteomics and gene-expression data with Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.


Power3 Medical Products and New Horizons Diagnostics plan to use Power3’s proteomics-derived protein biomarkers to co-develop antibody-based diagnostics for neuro-degenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.


NIAAA has issued two RFAs — one open to industry and the other to academic researchers — for the identification of genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic biomarkers for alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced tissue injury.


Cellzome will collaborate with J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development in a drug-discovery research program for Alzheimer’s disease utilizing Cellzome’s chemical proteomics technology.


BSI Proteomics will perform protein crystallization and structure determination services for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, focusing on the cystic fibrosis trans-conductance protein.


Biacore International has completed its $4 million all-cash acquisition of the FlexChip system and related assets from HTS Biosystems of Eagan, Minn. The FlexChip system is a surface-plasmon-resonance based technology applied to kinetic screening.


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