NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Proteomic research firm Adeptrix this month received a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the capabilities of its microarray-based mass spectrometry platform to include fluorescence imaging.
The foundation of the project is Adeptrix's BAMS, short for bead-assisted mass spectrometry, technology, which is essentially a microarray fabrication and measurement platform developed for the analysis of bead libraries using MADLI-TOF mass spec imaging. The platform had previously been referred to as MSBeadArray.
More specifically, the platform enables the transfer of selected analytes from beads onto the surface of a specially designed picotiter microarray slide in a manner that separates analytes such as antibodies, proteins, and peptides from individual microbeads while preserving co-localization of analytes extracted from the same bead. The result is an ultra-high density array of concentrated microspots, each of which can be analyzed by mass spectrometry.
According to Adeptrix Founder and CSO Vladislav Bergo, because microarray slides are made of glass or plastic, the company also sees potential for the platform in fluorescence imaging.
"If the beads themselves or analytes that are bound to the beads have fluorescent properties, it is possible to put the same chip on a microarray scanner and record a fluorescence image … [as well as] the mass spectrometry image," he told GenomeWeb.
And with the NSF grant, which is worth nearly $750,000, the firm aims to prove this.
Bergo anticipates BAMS will be of particular value in proteomics, allowing mass spectrometry to be used to distinguish protein isoforms and proteins with different patterns of post-translational modifications such as phosphorylation, which are not easily analyzed by fluorescence.
"If we add the mass spec detection capability on top of the fluorescence readout, all of a sudden we get much more information from the same analytical workflow," he said, adding that another application would be "to look at peptides and small proteins, and assess whether the sample is heterogeneous or homogeneous in terms of the sequence variants."
The NSF-funded project will also experiment with complementary analysis of bead arrays on both MALDI-TOF and electrospray ionization, according to the grant's abstract.
"Most peptides are analyzable by both MALDI and electrospray, but there is a subset that preferentially ionized in electrospray or in MALDI," Bergo noted. "So we hope that this will give us greater sequence coverage" and provide researchers with more options to design custom multiplex bead assays than currently possible.
Adeptrix further expects that BAMS can be developed to measure optically encoded beads, he said. "When you make an array of beads, it's essentially random; you put the suspension of beads on the surface of the plate and the beads randomly sink into each well, so there is no way of telling which bead will end up in each well."
"In many cases, mass spectrometry readouts will give you all the information you need, but in other cases it is good to know exactly what capture agent and what target analyte you have in each position," he continued. "By putting a combination of fluorescent dyes in the bead core or even making image-encoded beads … you can identify the location of each bead within the plate by taking [an] optical image."
On the business side of things, Adeptrix is also now looking to expand its roster from its current one-full time employee — Bergo — and a handful of part-time staffers.
"With the NSF grant, we are looking to add two full-time employees," Bergo said.
It has also struck up collaborations with two academic groups, which will use the BAMS platform and generate data on its performance that can be published in the literature, he added.