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Agilent to Commercialize Protein Labeling Technology Developed by GNF Researchers


Agilent Technologies said last week that it had licensed a protein labeling reagent and method from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and that it intends to commercialize the technology.

The technology will mainly facilitate the analysis of simple mixtures of proteins or peptides — such as protein bands from 1D or 2D gels — by MALDI mass spectrometry, said Jerome Bailey, proteomics bioconsumables program manager at Agilent. It will allow researchers to detect low-abundance peptides from a tryptic digest, assist with de novo sequencing by making the y-ion series in an MS/MS experiment more visible, and it can be used for the relative quantification of differentially labeled samples.

Eric Peters and Ansgar Brock in the protein profiling group at GNF developed the reagent and method, and published their approach in 2001 (Peters et al., Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 15(24): 2387-92). Their label is an imidazole derivative that reacts with the side chains of lysines, thus imparting a positive charge on the C-termini of peptides from a tryptic digest.

A similar approach called mass-coded abundance tagging (MCAT) that also labels lysines, with a widely available reagent — O-methylisourea — was published a year ago by researchers at the University of Toronto (Cagney and Emili, Nature Biotechnology, 20: 163-170, see PM 02-11-02). Bailey claimed that Agilent’s approach will likely be more sensitive, and that the reagent will be available in a heavy and light version for relative quantification.

In the commercial arena, Bailey said, the technology will compete with the Ettan CAF (Chemically Assisted Fragmentation)-MALDI sequencing kit that Amersham licenses exclusively from Procter & Gamble and launched at last year’s ASMS conference. However, unlike Peters and Brock’s method, Amersham’s kit requires a two-step reaction, he added.

Agilent holds a worldwide exclusive license to GNF’s patent application on the technology. GNF, a for-profit research center funded by the Novartis Research Foundation, considered a number of companies, but “Agilent was both the most enthusiastic about new technologies and we thought they offered the best opportunity to get the technology out into the broad research market,” said Troy Wilson, GNF’s vice president for business development. The most important aspects of the patent, according to Troy, are the reagent claims, and “for those, typically, in our experience, licensees have wanted exclusivity,” he said.

According to Bailey, Agilent is planning to commercialize the technology both as a separate kit and as part of its other proteomics offerings. He did not, however, provide a timeline.

— JK


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