A year ago our cover story touched on the potential for Fourier transform mass spectrometry to advance the field of proteomics. FT/MS mass spec, we noted, in theory offers the highest mass accuracy and resolution of any mass spec technique for studying complex protein mixtures, and enables “top-down” proteomics experiments that can identify the type and location of post-translational modifications to a protein. At the time, vendors were fully engaged in developing FT/MS instruments both easy to use and at a cost many labs could afford.
Over the past year vendors have continued to modify their new FT/MS instruments in an effort to put them in the hands of more proteomics researchers. The newest version of Bruker Daltonics’ instrument, the Apex QE, now comes in a 7-Tesla version of the original outfitted with an integrated electron capture dissociation mode for top-down applications, priced at $750,000. Thermo Finnigan has also tweaked its $750,000 LTQ-FT, adding electron capture dissociation and infrared multi-photon dissociation modes as optional add-ons.
And what kind of reception have these new instruments had on the market? Although Thermo doesn’t break out revenues for specific mass spec product lines, Thermo’s Life and Laboratory Sciences division — which includes mass specs for proteomics — experienced 22 percent growth for the first quarter of 2004 compared with the same period a year ago. Bruker attributed 33 percent year-over-year sales growth in the fourth quarter of 2003 in part to higher FT/MS sales.
Last June GT also reported on the publication of NHGRI’s blueprint for future research, which was published in an April 2003 issue of Nature. Among myriad other initiatives, NHGRI Director Francis Collins called for his institute to begin dabbling in assays to screen for potential drug-like compounds, and to begin using small molecule compounds as reagents in experiments designed to investigate disease mechanisms.
In the past year NIH has taken steps to make the move concrete. In December NIMH released a call for proposals to build a small molecule repository of 1 million compounds, and in January NIH proposed a change to its patent rights clause to protect the IP rights of companies supplying compounds to the small molecule repository.