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Newomics Using New Funding to Drive Commercialization of MEA Products


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Having this month closed a $3.9 million Series A funding round, mass spec technology firm Newomics aims to bring three new products to market within the next year.

The company's core technology is its multinozzle emitter array (MEA) device, which splits sample flow into multiple smaller streams to improve sample ionization and mass spec performance.

The basis for the MEA technology is the fact that mass spec sensitivity improves as the sample flow rate decreases. This has led many researchers in areas like proteomics where high sensitivity is essential to use nanoflow LC upfront of mass spec analysis as opposed to higher flow LC systems.

By splitting sample flow into a number of smaller streams, Newomics' MEA devices provide a further boost in sensitivity for experiments using nanoflow LC. Alternately, they allow researchers to use a higher flow rate while maintaining nanoflow-type sensitivity.

Newomics was launched in 2013 as a spinout from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Daojing Wang, the company's founder and CEO, and Pan Mao, its co-founder, invented the MEA technology. The firm launched an initial MEA device at the 2017 American Society for Mass Spectrometry annual meeting and launched an updated plug-and-play version at this year's ASMS meeting in June.

The company is still refining the MEA devices and aims to launch a new iteration by the end of the year. It is also developing a version of the MEA device that comes integrated with an LC column, which it also hopes to launch around the end of the year. Additionally, it is developing an ion source for use with the MEA device that Wang said will make it easier to interface the system with a wide range of mass spectrometers. The company aims to bring that product to market in the first or second quarter of 2019.

Development of the ion source will help Newomics address one of the major challenges the company has faced in its commercialization work thus far — interfacing its MEA devices to different mass spectrometers from different vendors.

Currently, the company has to build a housing for the MEA device specific to the particular ion source used in each model of mass spectrometer. The company sells what Wang calls "starter kits" that contain that housing along with MEA emitters, and after purchase of these starter kits, customers can then just buy replacement emitters when needed.

"Our eventual goal is to be able to interface [the MEA devices] with any mass spec on the planet," Wang said. "But this is challenging because there are six top mass spec companies, and it takes time to develop collaborations with each and every one of them."

To date, Newomics has established such collaborations with Thermo Fisher Scientific and Bruker. The Thermo Fisher collaboration has been ongoing for several years, he said, while the company has begun working with Bruker only recently. Newomics currently offers MEA kits for use with Thermo Fisher's Q-Exactive, Orbitrap Lumos, and Quantiva instruments. It does not have a kit for Bruker instruments yet, though Wang said the work with that company is focused on interfacing the device with the timsTOF Pro mass spec.

The company has also built interfaces for Sciex instruments that it is now testing both internally and in collaboration with several early-access customers, Wang said, though he noted that this was done without direct input from Sciex's R&D team.

Thermo Fisher and Newomics presented a poster at this year's ASMS meeting looking at how the MEA device improved mass spec performance. The study found that when coupled to a Fusion Lumos Tribrid instrument, the device provided a three- to four-fold boost in sensitivity and allowed the researchers to run capillary flow LC experiments with the same sensitivity as a nanoflow experiment.

Wang said that the initial version of the device that the company launched in 2017 required a manual installation process that some users felt was too tedious. With that in mind, the version of the device launched at this year's ASMS meeting comes in a plug-and-play format. Wang said that since the June meeting the company has received 15 orders, with customers including Merck, Genentech, Sanofi, and the Broad Institute.

He said thus far much of the interest has come from researchers doing drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics work and from proteomics researchers.

While tools development is Newomics' current focus, Wang said that long term he aims to move the company into diagnostics development, as well.

"As a company in the startup phase we have just published some assays and filed some patents, but once we have enough resources we may branch out into clinical work," he said.

Company researchers have published studies using the technology for diagnostic purposes. For instance, in 2014, Wang and Mao co-authored a paper in the Journal of Proteome Research on an assay for monitoring patient blood sugar that used the device to measure glucose as well as the intact forms of glycated hemoglobin, glycated HSA, and glycated apolipoprotein A-I. That assay also measured intact cysteinylated HSA, S-nitrosylated HbA, and methionine-oxidized apoA-I to gauge oxidative stress and cardiovascular risk.

Wang and colleagues have also developed assays using the technology to measure the binding of specific intact protein isoforms to small molecule drugs.

This work has been funded entirely by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Wang said. Since its founding, the company has received around $7.5 million in NIH funding. Currently, it has two active NIH grants, a $1.5 million National Institute of Environmental Health Science grant to develop stem cell-based assays for screening chemical toxicity and a $1.5 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to use the device for high-throughput identification of the molecular targets of natural products.