Aebersold Calls for Proteomics Technology Centers
In a commentary in the July issue of Nature Biotechnology, Ruedi Aebersold and his colleague Julian Watts at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle call for the creation of multiple “national centers for proteomics” that would allow academics access to cutting-edge technology and serve as incubators for new proteomics technology.
To justify this, Aebersold and Watts claim that public investments in proteomics have not kept pace with the private sector, tilting the balance of access to technology away from academic researchers. The authors don’t deny the infrastructure is expensive, rather they claim that the cost necessitates regional technology centers, akin to high-energy physics labs and astronomical observatories.
The proposal Aebersold and Watts make is that proteomics technology centers become additions to already existing national research centers, or that — and in the authors’ view preferably — the government fund proteomics centers either as independent entities or under the direction of academic institutions. As for their role, Aebersold and Watts write that “it is essential that any ‘national centers for proteomics’ not be just service providers, but include significant research and development components, ideally tied to some in-house biological research programs. This would ensure that the hardware, software, and analytical approaches that make proteomics the powerful biolgical approach it is, remain both available and state-of-the-art.”
Zyomyx Supplies Partners Healthcare with Early Access to Protein Chip System
As part of an early access program to solicit feedback and develop applications for its protein chip system, Zyomyx signed a three-year agreement last week to supply the technology to Partners Healthcare, the administrator of two Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospitals.
Although the partnership does not involve “a lot of money changing hands,” Zyomyx has agreed to support individual research projects to test the system, study biological samples, and provide recommendations for future versions of the protein chips, said Zyomyx CEO Larry Cohen. Currently, Zyomyx has designed the chips to contain a panel of capture agents for cytokines, a class of proteins involved in inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Specifically, Partners will receive an automated workstation, scanner, data analysis software, and the current versions of Zyomyx’s protein chips. Although the product is not planned for launch until early next year, in March Zyomyx announced that it had entered into a similar early access agreement with Specialty Laboratories, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based developer of specialized clinical tests.
Chris Colecchi, the corporate director for research & ventures at Partners, which owns Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that the hospitals had not yet decided which investigators would have access to the technology, or what kinds of experiments researchers were likely to undertake with it. “We’ve struck the broad deal, now the next layer is to find the specific investigators,” he said. As for why Partners was interested in partnering with Zyomyx, “basically we think the technology is cutting edge and very interesting,” he said. In addition, Partners is hoping to leverage access to the technology into millions of dollars in NIH research grants, Colecchi added.
Zyomyx would have the right to exclusively license any technology that researchers at the two hospitals develop while working under the agreement, Colecchi said. A joint committee of scientists from the Partners hospitals and Zyomyx would help prioritize the research projects, Cohen added.
LumiCyte Signs Marketing, Distribution Deal with Shimadzu
Protein profiling biochip company LumiCyte of Fremont, Calif., has signed an exclusive five-year agreement with Japanese trading giant Shimadzu to market and distribute LumiCyte’s SELDI-based protein mapping services.
The agreement also includes a multi-million dollar investment by Shimadzu, based in Kyoto.
LumiCyte’s biochips are based on Surface Enhanced Laser Desorption Ionization, or SELDI technology, a chip-based system that uses mass spectrometry to create protein profiles. Ciphergen, also of Fremont, Calif., markets these chips as its “ProteinChip” system, while Lumicyte uses them in-house to do protein profiling as a service for customers. The companies are currently involved in a lawsuit in which Ciphergen sued over the rights to this SELDI technology, as well as alleging that LumiCyte CEO William Hutchens, the former chief scientific officer of Ciphergen, misappropriated trade secrets. The trial is slated for January 2003.