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Inside Proteomics: ABI s Dave Hicks Sets out Strategy for Capitalizing on Proteomics

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AT A GLANCE

Name: Dave Hicks

Position: Director of marketing for proteomics applications at Applied Biosystems’ Proteomics Research Center in Framingham, Mass.

Prior Experience: Served as Director of the protein business unit for ABI, and as senior marketing director and product line manager for PerSeptive Biosystems in Framingham, Mass., before its acquisition by ABI.

QHow does Applied Biosystems define proteomics?

AWhen we talk about proteomics, we like to subsegment this into three key areas that make up the overall space of proteomics. Protein discovery is usually seen as what people call proteomics today … it has the mass spectrometry, the 2D gels, and it’s the applications our customers are using to identify and characterize proteins and to do [differential] protein expression. But that’s not the whole story of proteomics even though that’s probably the largest segment today. Protein function analysis is an extremely important component here and is not to be overlooked, although technology-wise we’re still in the very early days. Protein-protein interactions, and the whole protein structural area is getting some significant attention [at ABI] because information that we get in discovery and characterization of proteins is the basis of doing 3D modeling on these proteins or is combined with NMR and X-ray crystallography data. These three segments together represent pretty much the space that proteomics is now, and is anticipated to grow into.

QHow large is the market for proteomics equipment, and how do you see it growing?

AThat represents about an $800 million market segment, with protein mass spectrometry, advanced separations like gels and capillary LC as well as traditional separations like 1D electrophoresis, and routine purification making up the majority of that. Our vision is that this is continuing to grow quite rapidly over the next five to seven years and we’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of a $2 billion to $3 billion market in 2005 and continuing to grow even beyond that.

QDo you know what share of that you have already?

AIt’s a very fragmented market and we have approximately somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of that share if you look at all of our various businesses in proteomics.

QWhat are your best-selling proteomics products?

AThe biggest sellers in proteomics are the Voyager MALDI-TOF systems and the PS1 Voyager version, and [for MS/MS] the Q-STAR with the multisource on it, or the Pulsar version with simply electrospray. But we are seeing a growth in the Mariner, our electrospray time-of-flight instrument, which uses electrospray instead of MALDI as a source. But that’s a small segment of the market versus the first two, which are quadrupole time of flight, and MALDI-TOF.

QWhat is ABI’s strategy for developing new products in proteomics?

AWe need to do higher throughput, we need lower cost per sample, and there’s certainly a desire to go to more sensitive instruments, and instruments and systems that are more integrated. So it’s our strategy to develop and focus on places where we feel we can bring a factor of 10 or more improvement into the process of proteomics.

QHow do you quantify a factor of 10 improvement in protein analysis?

AI would generally categorize the kind of improvements that’ll take place in proteomics as ones of throughput, and ones of decreased cost per sample. Improvements in sensitivity and detection and improvements in the degree of automation of all these pieces — all of those are spaces where we would be able to identify more proteins quicker, we could do more characterization experiments — in other words, run more samples.

Two things to come out of that which are presently in the market or about to be launched represent this kind of factor of 10 improvement — one being the ICAT reagent technology and the other the new MALDI-TOF-TOF instrument. This is the first instrument of its kind that is developed exclusively for and justified completely by the interests and the activities in proteomics and protein analysis. It’s literally 10 times faster in getting samples through MS and MS/MS and that’s a factor of 10 improvement right there. It can do up to 28,000 samples a day on one instrument.

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