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Bruker, Nanosys Develop Chemical-Analysis Chips as Possible Alternative for LC/MS

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Bruker Daltonics and Nanosys announced a collaboration this week to develop nanotechnology-enabled matrix-free target plates for use with Bruker’s Flex Series mass specs.
 
The primary goal of the exclusive deal is to develop chips that can perform some of the functions currently done on larger, more expensive liquid chromatography instruments.
 
In addition to co-developing the plates, called NALDI chips, Bruker has exclusive distribution rights to the technology under the agreement. Both companies declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement.
 
The chips, which are expected to launch during the second quarter, will be developed specifically for use with Bruker’s Flex laser desorption ionization and time-of-flight mass specs.
 
In a joint press release, Bruker and Nanosys said the technology will “enable significant sensitivity, throughput and ease-of-use benefits for the analysis of small molecules such as drug compounds, small peptides, natural products pesticides or many other low mass molecules that previously were difficult to analyze with the ease and throughput of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometers.”
 
The chips are not designed for use with large peptides or large proteins, a Bruker official said.
 
According to Peter Garcia, CFO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nanosys, researchers will be able to spot samples such as small peptides onto the NALDI chips, then run them through the mass spec system to measure the molecular weight of the compound.
 
According to the press release, analysis of such small compounds typically has been done with liquid chromatography-mass spec techniques, which can be time-consuming and less robust.
 
While emphasizing that the NALDI chips would not be a substitute for LC/MS technology, Catherine Stacey, director of applications for Bruker Daltonics, said “there is a potential in the future that some LC/MS analysis could move to this type of technology. It’s not intended as a replacement.”
 
The Daltonics division houses Bruker BioSciences’ proteomics business.
 
In addition to Bruker, Agilent has developed a chip that it says could eventually replace liquid chromatography, and two weeks ago announced the expansion of the functionality of its HPLC chip across its entire portfolio of LC/MS systems. Bruker and Nanosys, however, said the nanotechnology incorporated in the NALDI chip enhances its performance.
 
“We use a special coating on these particular plates. There are plates out there now that are currently used to run through mass spec systems,” Garcia said. “What we do is use a nano-type coating that makes it more sensitive and a little bit easier to use.”
 

“We use a special coating on these particular plates. There are plates out there now that are currently used to run through mass spec systems. What we do is use a nano-type coating that makes it more sensitive and a little bit easier to use.”

Stacey said the chips are “set up so that the laser desorption from the surface is particularly efficient,” and the collaboration with Nanosys is “very early exploratory investigation of a new technology.”
 
In addition to R&D on the chip, the collaboration calls for R&D on applications for the technology and assay development. Nanosys will manufacture the chip and exclusively supply it to Bruker. Bruker has exclusive rights to market and distribute the chip globally, though those rights are dependent on Bruker meeting certain sales figures, Garcia said. He declined to elaborate.
 
Garcia said Nanosys and Bruker have been working on developing the chip “for an extended period of time. We’re pretty far along,” he said.
 
“There’ll be … the initial launch of the chip. Then there’s anticipated to be additional generations of their instrument or new instruments that this particular chip may be used in or specialized in so there are two different components to it,” Garcia said.
 
Founded in 2001, Nanosys develops products based on organic nanostructures, according to the firm’s Web site. To date, most of its technology development has been aimed at the electronics market including collaborations with Intel and Micron to develop next-generation flash memories.
 
It also has collaborations with Sharp, NTT DoCoMo and Rockwell Collins. While Nanosys has some health care collaborations, this week’s announced deal with Bruker is its first foray into the mass spec world, Garcia said.

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