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Eberlin Lab Receives $3M From Marcus Foundation to Develop MasSpec Pen

NEW YORK – Baylor College of Medicine said Wednesday that its Eberlin Lab for Medical Mass Spectrometry has received a $3 million research grant from the Marcus Foundation.

The funds will support the continued development and validation of the lab's MasSpec Pen technology for use in breast cancer surgery.

Developed by Livia Eberlin, associate professor in the division of surgical oncology and vice chair for research in Baylor's department of surgery, the MasSpec Pen could allow surgeons to more quickly analyze tissue during cancer surgery and help guide decisions around what tissue to resect.

The device is based on ambient ionization mass spectrometry, a method in which ions are generated directly from a target sample and injected into the mass spec, allowing for rapid analysis. It uses drops of water applied with a pen-like probe to extract lipids, metabolites, and other molecules from samples, generating molecular profiles that can be used to, for instance, to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue.

The Eberlin Lab has tested the tool in a pilot clinical study at Baylor with 22 breast cancer patients and plans to use the Marcus Foundation funding to enroll 200 additional patients at two affiliate hospitals, Ben Taub Hospital and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Surgeons will use the device intraoperatively for breast tissue analysis, surgical margin evaluation, and to determine how the technology performs in comparison to the current clinical approach.

"One of the aims of our project is to refine the technology to improve usability by surgeons in the operating room in a variety of breast cancer procedures," Eberlin said in a statement. "Most importantly, the primary goal is to validate the performance of the MasSpec Pen and its value to surgeons as they determine what tissues to remove and preserve during breast cancer surgeries."

Eberlin and her colleagues have also explored the technology for identifying microbes in clinical samples.

"When I met Dr. Eberlin and understood how the MasSpec Pen could help surgeons and ultimately impact patient lives, it was an easy yes to support the expansion of this innovative tool," said Bernie Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Foundation and cofounder of Home Depot.

Eberlin is also the cofounder and CSO of a company, MS Pen Technologies (formerly called Genio Technologies), that is working to commercialize the device.