NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – University of Victoria spinout firm MRM Proteomics said this week it has named as CEO Gary Kruppa, formerly Bruker's vice president for business development.
With the hire, MRM Proteomics continues its push to bring MALDI-TOF-based protein assays to the clinic, an effort on which Kruppa and the company have collaborated in the past.
Most notably, Kruppa was part of a collaboration announced last year between Bruker and MRM Proteomics to develop high-throughput immuno-MALDI (iMALDI) mass spec-based assays for determining genetic hemoglobin variants and diabetes risk.
Those assays will be developed to run on Bruker's MALDI Biotyper clinical mass spectrometry platform, which has received a variety of regulatory clearances, including US Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance, for clinical microbiology work. Speaking to ProteoMonitor this week, Kruppa said that under his leadership MRM Proteomics will continue to focus on development of protein assays for this instrument.
One particularly interesting opportunity, he said, is the development of protein-based microbiology assays to compliment the MALDI Biotyper's microbial identification capabilities.
"MRM [Proteomics] is very interested in developing MALDI assays that would be of interest to microbiologists [and] run on [the MALDI Biotyper] platform because then, everyone who has a Bruker MALDI Biotyper would be a potential customer," he said. There are roughly 1,300 MALDI Biotypers installed globally.
MRM Proteomics wouldn't look to compete with Bruker in the microbial ID arena but rather would offer additional tests clinical microbiologists might be interested in. "Things like markers for sepsis, markers for viral versus bacterial infection," Kruppa said. "There are a lot of things outside [bacterial] ID that could be done by iMALDI."
He called such assays "low-hanging fruit," noting that, in addition to developing assays for clinical microbiology, MRM Proteomics also aims to move MALDI and iMALDI-based assays into the clinical chemistry space for measuring protein biomarkers in patient blood, for instance.
Potentially aiding this effort, Kruppa said, is the recent appointment of MRM Proteomics Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Christoph Borchers as proteomics chair for the Jewish General Hospital at McGill University in Montreal. Borcher is also director of the UVic-Genome BC Proteomics Centre, which, Kruppa said, supports MRM Proteomics' commercial efforts through several agreements between the two parties.
Borchers' McGill appointment "gives [the company] tremendous access to clinical chemists," Kruppa said. "And we definitely plan on taking a close look at what those clinicians are doing, what their pain points are, what assays they have trouble with, and whether we can improve those by translating it to mass spec with iMALDI."
Mass spec-based clinical proteomics has focused largely on multiple-reaction monitoring (MRM) assays on triple quadrupole instruments, but in recent years several researchers, including Borchers, have demonstrated that MALDI-TOF can be suitable for targeted protein quantitation, as well.
As its name would suggest, MRM Proteomics deals with triple quad-based MRM assays in addition to its MALDI work – in fact, Kruppa said, MRM services and kit sales are the primary sources of the company's revenue at present – but, he noted, MALDI's relative speed and simplicity could make it the platform of choice for certain clinical proteomic assays.
"The MRM approach is better for profiling and monitoring," he said. "There is a lot of interest in longitudinally monitoring a large number of proteins that could serve as potential biomarkers for patients, and there turnaround time is not a huge issue in that you would be able to send those off to a lab that would be capable of doing these high-performance LC-MRM assays."
On the other hand, he said, "when you need a fast answer about a single question – for instance, you have a patient who is very sick and you want to know if they have sepsis – that is where MALDI could comes in. So where you need a relatively fast answer and a few markers might be enough."
MRM Proteomics is currently in the process of clinically validating an iMALDI assay for angiotensin I, which is used as a measure of plasma renin activity, a marker of primary aldosteronism. In an interview with ProteoMonitor last year, Borchers said the assay appeared to correlate very well with radioimmunoassays for angiotensin I, the current gold standard, and was able to quantitate the protein at low picograms-per-mL levels.
In the past, clinical microbiology researchers – most notably Nathan Ledeboer, medical director for the clinical microbiology and molecular diagnostics laboratories at Milwaukee's Froedtert Hospital – have suggested to ProteoMonitor that, having established the use of the MALDI Biotyper in their microbiology labs, they would likely look into using it in their clinical chemistry work, as well.
Kruppa said that MRM Proteomics would aim to encourage such transitions in order to aid adoption of its MALDI-based tests, but, he noted, he expected that most clinical chemistry labs would invest in devoted MALDI instruments.
"I think that when we do come up with [MALDI-based] clinical chemistry assays, they're not something people are going to run, at first at least, on their MALDI Biotyper," he said. "I think they will buy additional machines for their clinical chemistry lab."
He added, though, that once a substantial menu of regulated MALDI-based assays exists, the fact that clinicians could run them on the MALDI Biotyper could serve as cost justification for purchasing the instrument, particularly in smaller hospitals.
Despite MALDI's potential, though, triple quad-based MRM assays are currently the main source of revenue for MRM Proteomics, which, Kruppa said, is currently cash flow positive.
The company offers several MRM-based biomarker discovery panels, including its 142-protein Human Discovery Assay, 67-protein Human Cardiovascular Assay, and 53-protein Human Cancer Assay. It also plans to offer in the near future kit-based MRM panels that researchers can order and run in their own labs.
Kruppa said that at present the company plans to use funds from these businesses to drive growth, though "if we see opportunities where we need to grow faster than that, then we will certainly be looking at other funding opportunities."
MRM Proteomics has six employees, but, Kruppa said, the company also has access to the resources of the UVic-Genome BC Proteomics Centre, which has a staff of roughly 25.