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Industry Briefs: Mar 4, 2002


Bruker Daltonics’ Q4 Revenue Jumps to $24M


Bruker Daltonics reported last week that its fourth quarter 2001 revenue rose to $24.7 million, an increase of 13 percent including currency effects from the comparable quarter in 2000. For the year, the Billerica, Mass.-based mass spectrometer manufacturer saw its revenue grow 25 percent from 2000 to $92.7 million. Life science systems contributed 74 percent of the company’s sales revenue during 2001, compared with 66 percent for the previous year, the company said.

In a conference call to discuss the results, Bruker Daltonics CEO Frank Laukien said the company had received potential orders for about a dozen of its top-of-the-line MALDI TOF-TOF mass spectrometers. These orders, primarily from academic institutions in Europe and Japan, come on top of a potential order for 10 of the company’s TOF-TOF instruments in January from Basel, Switzerland-based Roche.

In response to analysts’ questions about the preference of big customers such as GeneProt for Q-TOF mass spectrometers, instead of ion trap instruments, Laukien said that he saw no general trend in the proteomics industry away from ion trap spectrometers. Referring to GeneProt’s decision to purchase Q-TOF mass spectrometers from Micromass valued at $20 million, Laukien said that “I’m sure [GeneProt’s decision] had a lot to do with [Micromass’] $10 million equity investment.”

Bruker Daltonics’ earnings before taxes for its most recent fourth quarter jumped to $1.5 million, compared to $0.6 million for the comparable quarter in 2000. Because of a tax benefit for the fourth quarter of 2000, the company’s earnings per share were unchanged from the year-ago quarter, at 2 cents per share. The company forecast revenue growth for the year of 22 percent to 27 percent, and earnings growth for the year of 40 percent to 60 percent.


Agilix Raises $28M and Closes Second Round


Agilix has closed the final round of its series B private stock offering with investments from SAIC Venture Capital Corporation and Temasek Capital, having raised a total of $28 million, the New Haven, Conn.-based startup said last week.

Agilix CEO Martin Mattessich, who declined to comment specifically on what the money would go towards aside from general R&D and operating expenses, said the company plans to offer research services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies based on its genome transcription and protein labeling technologies.

The three year-old company’s technology for whole genome transcription analysis is based on the research of Paul Lizardi, an associate professor of pathology at Yale University, and the protein labeling methods were developed in-house, Mattessich said.


Nature Biotechnology Proteomics Paper


In a paper published in the March issue of Nature Biotechnology, researchers at MDS Proteomics and the University of Virginia describe a method for identifying the phosphorylation sites of proteins in whole-cell lysates from S. cerevisiae using immobilized metal-affinity chromatography (IMAC) and nanoflow HPLC/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.

The authors, who include Don Hunt, a scientific advisor to MDS Proteomics, and Forest White, a scientist at the company, describe a method for converting a mixture of tryptic peptides to their corresponding methyl esters. The technique allows the IMAC to select out peptides with phosphate modifications, and reduces the tendency for carboxylate groups to bind to the column, the authors said. The researchers then analyzed the peptide mixture using nanoflow HPLC and a Thermo Finnigan LCQ ion trap mass spectrometer.

With the help of an in-house computer algorithm called the Neutral Loss Tool, and SEQUEST, a peptide identification algorithm developed by John Yates, the researchers identified over 1,000 phosphopeptides in a yeast cell lysate sample. Specifically, the authors reported finding 216 peptide sequences containing 383 phosphorylation sites. Although the data was not included in the paper, the authors also stated that the method could be extended to allow the analysis of two different samples in a quantitative differential protein expression experiment.


Proteome Systems to Store its Samples with Cryosite 


Proteome Systems has chosen Lane Cove, Australia-based Cryosite to cryogenically store the biological and clinical samples used in its proteomics discovery programs, the two companies said last week.

Keith Williams, CEO of Sydney, Australia-based Proteome Systems, said in a statement that the company will place its clinical samples in aliquots for long-term cryogenic storage at Cryosite’s off-site facility. “We have found the Cryosite partnership to be outstanding for this application,” he said. For shorter-term storage, Proteome Systems will archive arrays of proteins on membranes.

Integrative Proteomics Is Now Affinium Pharmaceuticals


Integrative Proteomics has changed its name to Affinium Pharmaceuticals, reflecting the company’s strategic realignment towards drug discovery and development, the Toronto-based company said last week.

Having hired several executives with drug discovery experience to take positions in the company, and following the integration of new chemistries for lead optimization, Affinium CEO John Mendlein said in a statement that “the new name reflects both what we do and how we do it.”

As Integrative Proteomics, Affinium developed a drug discovery partnership with Aurora Biosciences in April 2001, as well as relationships with Bruker Daltonics, Bruker AXS, and Bruker BioSpin in March 2001 to provide the company’s mass spectrometry, x-ray crystallography, and NMR equipment, respectively.


National Academies of Science Host Proteomics Symposium


In a sign that biochemists and molecular biologists are paying close attention to proteomics, the US national committee of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB) sponsored a conference last week in Washington, DC, at the National Academies of Science entitled “Defining the Mandate of Proteomics in the Post-Genomics Era: A Symposium.”

The conference was the brainchild of George Kenyon, dean of the college of pharmacy at the University of Michigan, who currently holds the rotating chair of the national committee of IUBMB. Kenyon organized a day-long meeting with talks from researchers such as Scott Patterson, vice president for proteomics at Celera, Ruedi Aebersold, a co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, and even NIH leaders such as Francis Collins and Marvin Cassman, director of the National Institute for General Medical Sciences.

“A lot of us believe that proteomics is the next step towards understanding what life is all about,” said Kenyon when asked why he chose proteomics as the subject of the symposium. “I personally think this is the most exciting field in molecular biology globally.” As for what emerged from the meeting, Kenyon said he hoped that in ten years “we would be able to look back and see that we will have helped set the course for a wise choice of how the early funds are spent.” The proceedings of the symposium will be published later this year in the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.

The Scan

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.

Study Explores Animated Digital Message Approach to Communicate Genetic Test Results to Family Members

In the Journal of Genetic Counseling, the approach showed promise in participants presented with a hypothetical scenario related to a familial hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome diagnosis.

Computational Tool Predicts Mammalian Messenger RNA Degradation Rates

A tool called Saluki, trained with mouse and human messenger RNA data, appears to improve mRNA half-life predictions by taking RNA and genetic features into account, a Genome Biology paper reports.

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.