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Alfa Wassermann Breaks Into Proteomics By Launching Ultracentrifugation Device

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More than two years after its creation, Alfa Wassermann Proteomics Technologies recently released its AW Promatix 1000 continuous-flow ultracentrifugation system, launching the company into the proteomics space.
 
Released in late October during the Human Proteome Organization’s World Congress, the Promatix 1000 is the first instrument from Alfa Wassermann specifically for proteomic applications. The instrument is currently available only in the US and will be released in Europe next year.
 
Alfa Wassermann created its Proteomics Technologies division in 2004.
 
Along with the launch of the device, AWPT also entered into an agreement with the John Hopkins University School of Medicine to use the Promatix 1000 to develop methodologies and protocols for isolating and enriching organelles and sub-cellular particles. 
 
Perhaps known best as a drug and diagnostic company, Alfa Wassermann’s initial foray into proteomics is a story of a business adapting to market opportunity.
 
The company’s ultracentrifugation technology was already well established as an instrument for use for vaccine purification. Mark Flocco, AWPT’s vice president of business development and marketing, said that since June about 90 percent of vaccines used in the US are purified using Alfa Wassermann’s ultracentrifugation technology.
 
But as proteomics became a hot research field, the company saw a new possibility for the technology.
 
“Like most businesses, [we] were looking to expand the market,” Flocco told ProteoMonitorthis weekof the company’s original decision to enter into the proteomics segment. “At that point in proteomics, everybody was looking for a way to simplify the proteome, and here was a way of not only simplifying the proteome but actually doing some research on organellar disorders and organelles.”
 
The division currently has about 25 employees, Flocco said, and is looking to expand its work force.
 
In the nearly three years since creating its proteomics division, Alfa Wassermann has been fine-tuning its ultracentrifugation technology for proteomic applications. In addition to being able to fractionate samples to much smaller sizes, the device has been made fully automated.
 
“From the introduction of the sample into the gradient, to the gradient introduction in the rotor, to the recycling, to the washing, to the banding, to the fraction collection, [it’s] all automated and temperature-controlled,” Flocco said.
 
The Promatix 1000 uses buoyant density accumulation to automate the separation, fractionation, and enrichment of sub-cellular particles in a single step. Organelles, organellar subtypes, and macromolecular complexes are separated according to the buoyant density in the gradient.
 
The separated components are fractionated into a 96-well plate format and researchers can use the organelles directly in experiments or study them by 2D gel electrophoresis or mass spectrometry analysis.
 
The advantage of the Promatix 1000, company officials said, is that it allows researchers a quicker, simpler way of obtaining low-abundance proteins, a crucial but difficult step in proteomic research. The fractionation and separation of sub-cellular particles can now be done in less than four hours, Flocco said, compared to the eight to 10 hours needed for other methods.
 
In a statement, Dino DiCamillo, president of AWPT said, “Because of the inherent enrichment capabilities, the AW Promatix 1000 provides the capability to harvest higher amounts of the separated sub-cellular particles — and therefore, more low-abundance proteins — when compared to other traditional methods.”
 

“At that point in proteomics, everybody was looking for a way to simplify the proteome, and here was a way of not only simplifying the proteome but actually doing some research on organellar disorders and organelles.”

In addition to the Promatix 1000, AWPT has released the MitoID kit for the visualization and detection of mitochondria using the Promatix. The kit includes a combination of five mitochondrial-specific and formulated antibody controls, and protocols for Promatix 1000 analysis from samples of up to five Western blot experiments. Six different kits are available for mitochondrial analysis of brain, liver, or heart tissue for rat or mouse models.
 
The company also has a collaboration with John Hopkins, which uses the Promatix 1000 to examine heart tissue and mitochondrial disorders for low-abundance proteomics. The project is led by Jenny Van Eyk, director of the John Hopkins National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Proteomics Group and the John Hopkins Bayview Proteomics Center.
 
Van Eyk did not respond to requests for an interview.
 
As AWPT moves ahead, it continues tweaking the Promatix 1000 while keeping an eye out for technology that complements it, Flocco said.
 
“We’re always looking at new ways to prepare the sample and we’re always looking at new post-visualization techniques or ways of actually visualizing organelles, visualizing complexes,” he said.
 

“Developing an instrument is not an A to Z step; you’re always optimizing, always improving, always adding better features, more things to it. But in the future, what we hope to do is improve the sample preparation on the front end and the visualization and detection on the back end, whether that has something to do with antibodies, or beads, or membranes, or capture mechanisms, or fluorescence microarrays,” Flocco said.

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