Working under a grant provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario, Canadian proteomics firm Norton Scientific is developing a multiplex version of its hand-held PAM protein aggregation monitor that it hopes to introduce in the spring of next year.
The multiplex device, which the company is developing in collaboration with an undisclosed academic partner, will be pitched as a front end to more expensive, time-consuming protein analysis systems like Wyatt Technologies' line of Dawn instruments, Norton president Bryan Webb told ProteoMonitor.
Norton currently sells a hand-held simplex version of the device for $9,000, but, Webb said, in talking with customers, it came to realize that many "have high-throughput needs that [require] both automation and a multiplex approach. So we're taking the current product and we'll run with it from there."
Under the terms of the FedDev grant, the Canadian government is giving $50,000 to a researcher from an undisclosed university to work on automating and multiplexing the PAM device, with Norton adding another $25,000 of its own. The grants can last as long as a year, Webb said, adding that he expects development of the product to take nine to 10 months.
"We see it as being a very good front end to machines like Wyatt Technologies' Dawn [instrument]," he said. Dawn machines "cost anywhere from $35,000 to $55,000 and are fairly complex [to operate]. Each test takes around 20 minutes – and there's the real problem, it's a bottleneck."
A multiplex version of the PAM device could help ease that bottleneck by letting researchers prescreen their samples to decide which to move on to the more involved Dawn analysis, Webb said.
"I can teach a lab tech how to run [the PAM device] in about 10 minutes and it does the test in one second versus 20 minutes," he said. "So say you have 100 compounds that you want to take a look at. If you do them on our product you can make the decision that, 'Yes, I want to send this to the central analytic facility,' or, 'No, it doesn't pay to run this sample.'"
"If someone can take 100 compounds and come up with the fact that only 10 are good for further work, you've just reduced your workload a whole lot," he added.
Thus far, Norton has orders for simplex PAM devices from the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland, and the University of Windsor in Ontario and is providing the University of Toronto with a week-long evaluation, Webb said.
This week the company also announced it has signed Prisma Biotech as a distributor for the PAM device in Asia. Webb told ProteoMonitor sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News that Prisma has achieved the first sale in Asia of the device and is in ongoing negotiations with another distributor for Japan and South Korea (GWDN 04/14/2011).
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