In an effort to live up to its name, NextGen Sciences has begun developing what it hopes will be the next generation of 2D gel electrophoresis analysis systems. Last week, the Huntingdon, UK-based company won a £150,000 ($280,000) SMART grant from the UK government to help fund its product development activities, and NextGen plans to complete a beta version of its new platform by the end of the year, according to Linda Cammish, NextGen’s director of business development.
NextGen is already building prototype versions of the system, which take a user’s sample and choice of IPG strip, and automatically performs the first and second dimension separation steps to produce a 30 cm by 30 cm gel containing separated proteins. Users can define hydration, focusing, and equilibration times, as well as the second dimension acrylamide concentration or gradient.
Rather than attempt to replace 2D gel electrophoresis as a protein separation technology altogether, Cammish said NextGen determined that it could develop a product that could eliminate some of the disadvantages associated with the technique that lead people to wish for a replacement in the first place.
“Traditionally, one of the difficulties associated with using 2D gel electrophoresis, where it’s still a very long, multistep, labor-intensive process, is that they tend to give irreproducible data,” Cammish said. “It also tends to have to be run by those skilled in the art. In the development of our system, we’ve really simplified the whole process to enable it to be used by a laboratory technician,” she added. “Because it’s been fully automated, one of the major advantages is that it’s highly reproducible.”
Cammish also touted the system’s common protocols: It will come with standard template settings for typical runs, she said, and also with the option to modify those settings according to the user’s specific needs. This type of user interface is similar to what the company designed for the protein array workstation it developed for PerkinElmer, Cammish added.
Although other platforms on the market — such as those sold by Genomic Solutions and Proteome Systems — include spot cutting robots and systems for arraying spots onto targets for MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, NextGen’s will presumably fall below its competitors in price. (Cammish declined to disclose any pricing information.)
Cammish also made the distinction between NextGen’s small-scale 2D gel platform, which currently is designed to run only one gel at a time, and the massive robotics-operated systems developed by others. Rather than use robotics to move gels from step to step, Cammish said, the NextGen system will remain fully integrated, “employing a completely different type of technology.” Cammish added that the company had filed for patent protection on its 2D gel technology.
While NextGen’s system is not designed for high-throughput gel analysis on the scale undertaken by LSBC or OGS, Cammish added that future versions of the product, known as the a2DE system, will be able to run multiple gels simulataneously. NextGen is currently seeking early access partners to agree to use the sytem and help NextGen refine the technology, she said.