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Bio-Rad Expands into Protein Function Analysis With Acquisition of ProteOptics


Bio-Rad's acquistion last week of Haifa, Israel-based ProteOptics enables the company to expand its proteomics portfolio beyond protein discovery and into the functional analysis of proteins.

The acquisition will provide Bio-Rad with a companion instrument to its Bio-Plex suspension array system for quantitative peptide and protein analysis. According to Emily Dale, marketing manager of systems and software within Bio-Rad's protein function division, the firm can bundle ProteOptics' instrument, which is based on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology, with its Bio-Plex system for customers performing protein function research and biomarker discovery.

SPR technology enables researchers to identify protein interactions and to analyze the kinetics of those interactions.

"When you finish the discovery process, you want to find out what do the interesting proteins do? Who do they interact with, and what is their function within the cell?" Dale told ProteoMonitor. "SPR allows you to do the next step — the functional step."

With SPR technology, molecules are bound covalently to a chip surface, and light is shined through a glass prism onto the molecules. When the light hits the molecules, it diffracts at a certain angle.

"When you finish the discovery process, you want to find out what do the interesting proteins do? Who do they interact with, and what is their function within the cell? SPR allows you to do the next step — the functional step."

A sample is then flowed across the chip so that molecules in the sample bind to molecules on the chip. By analyzing the change in refraction angle of light once it has shined upon bound molecules, scientists can determine how fast molecules bind and come off of each other.

"There are a lot of advantages of knowing the kinetics of binding," said Dale. "For example, you may want to understand how a mutation affects binding so you can understand a pathway. Or you may be developing an inhibitor drug that binds to a protein. You need to know the balance of how long does it bind, and who else does it interact with?"

In addition to helping determine the function of interesting proteins, such as biomarkers, SPR is also well-suited for developing antibodies, Dale said.

"You can look at how well an antibody interacts with a target, and you can do epitope mapping to understand where the antibody is binding to the protein," said Dale.

The SPR system is targeted to be released some time this year, Dale said. The system will include the SPR instrument, reagents, disposable chips, and a software package for analyzing SPR data. Dale declined to provide a more specific timeframe for the release of the system.

Bio-Rad is not discussing prices for the system at this time, Dale said. Also undisclosed are terms of the acquisition.

The prototype instrument looks like two microwave ovens side by side, into which a scientist feeds samples and buffer, Dale said.

She said the firm is looking to sell the instrument into several different market segments. "We haven't really finalized the product design and price point, so I can't comment on which market segment we'll go after initially," she said. "We plan to offer products into all of those market segments that Bio-Rad addresses."

Bio-Rad officials told ProteoMonitor's sister publication, BioCommerce Week, that the firm is targeting an $80-million market with the SPR technology.

The acquisition is a key part of Bio-Rad's strategy for the biomarker discovery market. The new instrument will be Bio-Rad's second product offering in that space, following its Bio-Plex system, which uses Luminex's xMAP technology and has been on the market since the end of 2000.

Bio-Rad had been working with ProteOptics, now called Bio-Rad Haifa, for about a year before the acquisition last week, Dale said. The subsidiary currently has 14 employees.

"We're very excited to have them on board," said Dale. "Unlike some acquisitions that are just technology acquisitions, ProteOptics has a team of life scientists, physicists, chemists and engineers, so we really gained a lot of skill and expertise."

In addition to its new SPR technology, Bio-Rad also offers technologies and solutions for purifying and labeling proteins, protein electrophoresis, protein sample preparation, gel imaging, and gel analysis.

"[The SPR technology] really fits in with our portfolio," said Dale. "Once the discovery work is done, we have the tools to purify the protein, and now researchers can use the SPR system to do the functional step. It's a complete workflow."

— Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])
and Edward Winnick ([email protected])

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