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Invitrogen Launches Yeast Proteome Array at BIO, Details Future Plans for Human Chips


Invitrogen hosted a “rallying call” for the launch of its yeast proteome array at the Biotechnology Industry Organization 2004 conference, held this week at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The Yeast ProtoArray, which contains almost all of the proteins in the yeast proteome printed on one chip, will be available for sale on July 15, Invitrogen said.

The company also gave some details on the upcoming release of several human protein arrays. “This is more than just an array initiative. It’s a whole content initiative,” Barry Schweitzer, senior director of technology for Invitrogen — and former director of technology for Protometrix — told ProteoMonitor during a telephone call from the conference.

Invitrogen acquired Protometrix, which developed the yeast array, in early April (see PM 4-9-04). Invitrogen said it will launch its first chip containing human proteins this fall. This is likely to take the form of a kinase array, but Schweitzer said that with regard to “exactly which array is going to be launched and when we will be launching them — there are various commercial considerations that are being looked at right now.” He said that a kinase array might contain up to 400 proteins. Other possible arrays to be launched later this year or next year could include a transcription factor array, and organ-focused arrays such as a liver protein array.

Invitrogen told ProteoMonitor in April, at the time of the acquisition, that it was planning to release the yeast array at BIO. Protometrix spun out from Yale University in 2001, with protein chip spotting technology developed by Michael Snyder, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale. The smaller company already did a “soft launch” of its array, which contains nearly all of the proteins in the yeast proteome, last November.

In the two months that have passed since the acquisition, Protometrix and Invitrogen have been working on integrating their R&D teams, Schweitzer said, “to do some of the last stages of product development that had to go into the [formal] launch of this kit.”

While the buzz around the yeast array is focused primarily on the fact that it is the first commercialized array to put a whole proteome on one chip, Invitrogen is not planning on releasing any more whole proteome chips as products anytime soon, Schweitzer said. “The yeast array is really a very different type of product than some of the arrays we’ll be launching later this fall,” Schweitzer said. “Our next set of products [is] going to be much more focused to various classes of proteins.”

The yeast array might be useful for such applications as biomarker discovery — since, for example, “half the proteins on an array have no known function” — and will “be able to screen an order of magnitude more proteins … than are going to be available on our next set of products,” Schweitzer said. The upcoming human protein products, on the other hand, will be smaller scale and more application-focused, he said.

But Invitrogen is still thinking big. Protometrix has already purified 5,000 human proteins for spotting on various arrays. Now, the company plans to scale up its capabilities from a 4,500 annual protein production rate to be able to express and purify 18,000 proteins per year, Schweitzer said during the press conference. The resulting collections of proteins will be “sliced and diced into various products, but right now, it’s not our intention to launch a whole human proteome array,” Schweitzer said.

The company has said in the past it plans to put the majority of the human proteome on chips by 2006 (see PM 4-30-04). But Schweitzer clarified that this does not mean the company will actually sell an array or collection of arrays containing that kind of content by 2006. “It’s our goal to have in our collection the majority of proteins in a human proteome in that time frame, and those proteins in that collection would be available as various different types of products, as well as being available for pharmaceutical and biotech companies for certain higher value discovery-based projects,” he said.

Schweitzer said that customers in “limited partnerships” would be able to access the content in several different ways: as clones with Invitrogen’s Gateway system, as proteins, and as protein arrays.

It’s not impossible that Invitrogen might eventually commercialize an actual human proteome array as a product after offering it first in selected service partnerships, Schweitzer said, “but I’m not quite sure how that will play out … time will tell.”

Before anyone starts planning their budgets for Invitrogen’s human arrays, however, they might want to see how the yeast array plays out first. As Steven Bodovitz, principal consultant for Select Biosciences, told ProteoMonitor in April, researchers “haven’t put [ProtoArray] through its paces yet and shown whether it’s really going to be useful or not.”



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