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PerkinElmer to Challenge ABI, Build Proteomics Reagent Portfolio with Mass Tagging Tech Buy

Orlando, Fla. — In an ongoing effort to expand its capabilities in proteomics and build on last year's launch of its BioXpression biomarker system, PerkinElmer has acquired Agilix's i-PROT protein-labeling technology.

The acquisition is part of the firm's previously stated plans to enhance its biomarker-discovery capabilities and further develop its proteomics-based diagnostics. PerkinElmer also hopes the technology will provide a stiff challenge to Applied Biosystems' ICAT mass tagging technology and help the firm reach a wider customer base.

Mary Duseau, director of biopharmaceutical sales for PerkinElmer, told BioCommerce Week on the sidelines of the Pittcon 2006 conference here that the firm expects to launch i-PROT in "six months plus."

According to Duseau, the acquisition "rounds out the proteomics toolbox" and will "bring proteomics to the masses," or in other words, a potentially wider range of customers in the drug-discovery field. The i-PROT technology will compete primarily with ABI's ICAT technology, Duseau said. However, she claimed i-PROT allows for much higher plexing.

"Most academic researchers have not yet had access to this technology. It's our intention to get this technology in a workable format into the hands of researchers as fast as possible."

As for ABI, the company has a partnership with Invitrogen under which the companies will jointly sell ABI's iTRAQ and ICAT protein- and peptide-labeling reagents and Invitrogen's new SILAC metabolomic labeling technology. ABI will also support Invitrogen's SILAC technology with software on its TOF/TOF mass spectrometers and plans to extend software support to other mass spec types (see BioCommerce Week 6/9/2005).

Agilix's i-PROT technology uses isobaric mass tags to simultaneously quantify proteins from multiple samples in one mixture. The technology enables quantitative comparison between proteins expressed in a number of different conditions, for example at six or seven different time points.

According to Darin Latimer, vice president of Agilix and co-inventor of the technology, i-PROT has been used to label up to 29 peptides at six different time points (see BioCommerce Week sister publication ProteoMonitor 12/17/2004).

Experiments using i-PROT are done in much the same way as those using ABI's ICAT. First the samples are labeled using i-PROT isobaric labels. Next, the samples are separated to reduce complexity using high-performance liquid chromatography or 2D gels. Finally, the samples are introduced into a mass spectrometer. Mass-spec data analysis can then tell the researcher both the identity of peptides and the relative quantity of each peptide labeled under one condition relative to the other conditions.

"There's nothing different about the labeling step or the sample preparation, or the reduction of mixture complexity," Agilix CEO Martin Mattessich told ProteoMonitor. "You're just doing what you're doing, but instead of doing it serially in many different batches, you just throw it all together."

Development of i-PROT began in 2001, and the product was expected to be on the market in 2005. Prior to PerkinElmer's acquisition, Toronto-based Protana was using i-PROT as part of its proteomics services, but it had not been commercially sold, said Neil Cook, chief scientific officer of PerkinElmer's Life and Analytical Sciences division.

"Most academic researchers have not yet had access to this technology," he told BioCommerce Week. "It's our intention to get this technology in a workable format into the hands of researchers as fast as possible."

The i-PROT technology is protected under US Patent No. 6,824,981, entitled "Ultra-sensitive detection systems using alterable peptide tags." The patent has over 500 allowed claims, according to Agilix, which is now a shell company following the sale of its only product.

Expanding the Proteomics Portfolio

The acquisition of Agilix's i-PROT technology complements PerkinElmer's recent licensing agreement for the multiplexing bead-based technology from Luminex. Under the terms of that pact, PerkinElmer is standardizing its multiplex assay development on Luminex's xMAP platform.

PerkinElmer intends to use the i-PROT technology in biomarker panels for pharmaceutical development and ADME/Tox, as well as in vitro diagnostics for maternal, neonatal, and prenatal health.

PerkinElmer is the world's leader in prenatal genetic screening, and building its proteomics reagents portfolio is a key part of retaining that position. Robert Friel, vice chairman and president of the firm's Life and Analytical Sciences business, said during a January conference call, "Look for us to continue to invest in our proteomics reagents capabilities for advanced applications in biomarker discovery and new proteomics-based diagnostics. This would further complement and expand the BioXpression platform introduced in 2005.

"Our strategy here is to expand our technologies in drug discovery tools to include next-generation proteomics diagnostics," he said (see BioCommerce Week 1/4/2006).

PerkinElmer officials said during a presentation at Pittcon that the firm had five major goals for 2006: increase R&D spending 15 percent; expand globally, particularly in China and India; accelerate the pace at which new products are developed and launched; increase partnerships; and improve the customers' experience when dealing with the firm.

PerkinElmer recently sold its aerospace and semiconductor units. The divestitures are part of the firm's plan to concentrate primarily on its health sciences operations, which include its genetic-screening business, medical-imaging technologies, and molecular-biology tools (see BioCommerce Week 10/13/2005).

— Edward Winnick ([email protected])
and Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])

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