Measurements, thankfully, have been better standardized since the days of 12th-century Henry I, when a yard was defined as the distance from the tip of the king’s nose to the end of his outstretched thumb.
If all goes as planned, standardization may be in order for microarrays and new genomic and proteomic technologies for the detection and characterization of molecules, thanks to eight new contracts awarded to the Teddington, UK-based company LGC, by the UK Department of Trade and Industry.
The contracts, announced this summer, are worth £2 million and are part of an estimated £5 million Measurements for Biotechnology program formulated last year. The impetus was a 1999 national review of the measurement system, which indicated a need to address new technologies. Biotech was “the most significant,” says Graham Reed, program supervisor of biotechnology at the National Measurement System Directorate.
The goal of the program is “measured once, accepted everywhere,” says John Marriott, director of analytical technologies at LGC, formerly Laboratory of the Government Chemist and now an independent analytical laboratory providing research and consulting in chemistry, biochemistry, and DNA analysis.
LGC was awarded these contracts based on its reputation in biotech and the strength of its consortia, says Reed. It will work with a variety of academic institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises.
LGC has contracts in all categories of the program. Much of the work will involve studying the validity and reliability of expression and protein microarrays, exploring how best to quantify results generated by proteomic and genomic technologies like mass spec, and quantifying the uncertainties that exist in current measurement protocols.
Marriott says that a challenge will be to obtain the information and incorporate and utilize it such that any recommendation LGC makes will still be valid in a few years, particularly for technologies that are continually developing, such as microarrays.
“The mission statement, if you can call it that, is to make sure that the UK infrastructure for measurements is developed and maintained as necessary,” Reed says. “It has to be done such that it is consistent with those of other companies and recognized by other countries. Failing to recognize methods and capabilities … is a possible big barrier to trade.”
— Dana Frisch