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Beyond Genomics Looks to Micromass for Instruments; Finds Second Pharma Partner

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After signing DiaDexus as its second pharmaceutical partner last month, Beyond Genomics last week chose Micromass to provide liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry equipment for the systems biology company’s proteomics platform.

The two companies declined to disclose the value of the deal, but the partnership involves more than just the bulk purchase of equipment at a discount price. Micromass made a “non-trivial” equity investment in Waltham, Mass.-based Beyond Genomics, and in addition, the Manchester, UK-based subsidiary of Waters obtained rights to license Beyond Genomics’ intellectual property in mass spectrometry and protein separations, according to Mark McDowall, marketing director for Micromass.

The arrangement with Micromass will add an additional dimension to Beyond Genomics’ existing proteomics platform. Thus far, the company has relied on custom-built ion-mobility mass spectrometry (IMMS) technology licensed from co-founder David Clemmer’s lab at Indiana University, and labeling chemistries for performing quantitative differential protein expression experiments developed by fellow co-founder Fred Regnier, also at Indiana University. In addition, the company is negotiating to license protein microarray technology from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Steve Naylor, Beyond Genomics’ chief scientific officer, previously held an academic position.

McDowall declined to identify the specific technologies Micromass has the most interest in commercializing, but added that “they have technology that we hope to translate onto our platform, and that [we think customers might like],” he said. “That capability has been built into the structure of the deal.”

In contrast to Micromass’ equipment supply deal with GeneProt, announced in December of last year, McDowall said the arrangement with Beyond Genomics is “more complex in nature,” and that the full benefits of the partnership will accrue over the next two to three fiscal years. “The deal with GeneProt is something we’re very proud of,” he said, “but it was easy to do because it was so clear cut.” In that deal, GeneProt purchased CapLC liquid chromatography and Q-TOF micro mass spectrometry systems valued at $20 million, in return for a $10 million equity investment in GeneProt.

Beyond Genomics chief scientific officer Steve Naylor said his company would have use for both Q-TOF and triple quadrupole mass spectrometers from Micromass, as well as liquid chromatography instrumentation from Waters, Micromass’ parent.

“In terms of the deal, it’s really across the board in terms of their product line,” said Naylor. “It’ll really be a suite of their commercially-available instruments that are on-offer today, and we would also obviously be looking to get heads-up and access to some of their instruments that are coming through their pipeline.”

Naylor said he threw in his lot with Micromass primarily because of the improvements the company has made in developing software over the past five years to accompany its mass spectrometers. Micromass has also committed itself to providing “total solutions” to its customers through its access to Waters’ capabilities and its proteomics partnership with Bio-Rad, he said. Naylor had also worked with Micromass during his previous academic career at the Mayo Clinic.

Micromass had been in discussions with Beyond Genomics for at least a year, McDowall said, but the talks only began to pick up steam from Beyond Genomics’ side in the last couple months. Micromass’ past relationship with Naylor, who joined Beyond Genomics last fall, “didn’t do us any harm,” he added.

 

From Alzheimer’s to Atherosclerosis to Cancer

 

Beyond its efforts with Elan Pharmaceuticals to identify biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and its efforts to develop its own drug discovery program focused on atherosclerosis, Beyond Genomics’ recently signed collaboration with DiaDexus will now move the company into cancer research. Naylor said Beyond Genomics will attempt to find diagnostic markers and drug targets from samples of human tissue derived from healthy patients and those with cancer of the colon, breast, and ovaries.

DiaDexus, a company formed in 1997 as a joint venture between Incyte Genomics and SmithKline Beecham, has taken an undisclosed equity stake in Beyond Genomics. The South San Francisco-based diagnostics and drug discovery company will also pay Beyond Genomics research fees, as well as milestone fees and royalties on any product that makes it to market.

Beyond Genomics is still planning the experiments it will perform for DiaDexus, but the work will involve Beyond Genomics’ stable isotope labeling chemistries, multi-dimensional liquid chromatography instrumentation, and both commercial mass spectrometers and custom-built IMMS mass spectrometry equipment, Naylor said. “We spend a fair amount of time thinking through how to optimize the design [of the experiments], and therefore minimize the number of samples we need to use, while maximizing the information output,” he said.

Naylor added that despite Elan’s recent troubles with its Alzheimer’s vaccine, which in clinical trials was recently reported to cause serious brain inflammation, there would be no effect on Beyond Genomics’ collaboration with the company to identify novel biomarkers for the disease. Naylor added that “we continue to move forward in a positive way.”

—JSM