After spending about a year developing its ProteomicProcessor Biosensor instrument, which uses surface plasmon resonance technology to enable researchers to identify and analyze the kinetics of protein interactions, Lumera has recently placed three of its ProteomicProcessors in academic laboratories for beta testing.
The first instrument was sold to the Medical University of South Carolina in February, where it will be used by Craig Beeson's research group to study proteins in the mitochondria involved in the pathways of cell death.
The second instrument was sold to Harvard Medical School earlier this month, where it will be used by Joshua LaBaer's research group to study how proteins derived from a cDNA library interact with certain molecules.
The third instrument was sold to the Baylor Research Institute this week and will be used by Jacques Banchereau's research group to study rheumatoid arthritis and other immune system diseases.
"At the base of these applications, it's essentially the same technology it's a high throughput, label-free methodology which can measure kinetic binding with sensitivities not available with other equipment," said Helene Jaillet, Lumera's director of investor relations. "The applications may be different, but the reason why the equipment is of interest is pretty similar across the spectrum."
"At the base of these applications, it's essentially the same technology it's a high throughput, label-free methodology which can measure kinetic binding with sensitivities not available with other equipment."
According to Robert Petcavich, Lumera's senior vice president and chief technology officer, the key to the ProteomicProcessor is Lumera's proprietary light source.
"We use a scanning engine that has a lot of advantages over conventional techniques," said Petcavich. "We can expand and contract the beam size or scan area with software control. With the other [companies' instruments], you can only interrogate a fixed area, which is generally pretty small, and that limits their throughput."
The ProteomicProcessor competes with Bio-Rad's ProteOptics instrument and Biacore's SPR-based tool. The instrument, which is about the size of a desktop computer, will sell for between $300,000 and $400,000 and it expected to formally launch later this year, said Petcavich.
While Bio-Rad's ProteOptics instrument can analyze about 20 spots at a time, Lumera's ProteomicProcessor has been demonstrated to analyze 4,500 spots at once, said Petcavich.
"Because of our unique light source, there's no real limitation to the number of spots we can do at once," said Petcavich. "We could do several hundred thousand spots at once, but nobody's interested in so many data points right now, so we generally do 100 to 1,000 spots."
Biacore's SPR-based products are generally larger about the size of small refrigerators and not as high-throughput, Petcavich added.
Bio-Rad and Biacore did not respond to requests for comments in time for this publication.
Harvard Medical School's LaBaer said the main advantage of the Lumera instrument is its ability to work on many features simultaneously.
"We have developed a novel form of protein microarray," said LaBaer, referring to his Nucleic Acid-Programmable Protein Array, which consists of cDNA vectors coupled with a capture antibody (see ProteoMonitor 1/14/2005). "This [instrument] would enable us to do large scale studies. We will print our arrays on [Lumera]'s surface and look for protein interactions to determine binding kinetics and affinity constants."
In addition to selling its SPR-based instrument, Lumera also sells disposable, high-density arrays, called NanoCapture arrays. So far, the company has developed two kinase arrays and an antibody array, and it is in the process of developing a custom mitochondrial proteome array for Beeson's research group at MUSC.
Beeson said in addition to offering high throughput analysis of spots, Lumera has technology for controlling spots on their chip surfaces.
"Lumera's hydrophilic spots within hydrophobic regions offers very good quality control, which enables downstream other potential applications, such as doing a trypsin digest of protein ligands on each spot, and using that for mass spec," he said.
Lumera began developing its ProteomicProcessor instrument in January 2005. The first generation ProteomicProcessor instrument was about the size of a dining room table, said Petcavich. It was tested by researchers at the Institute of Systems Biology, who used the instrument to analyze DNA-protein interactions.
In August 2005, Lumera began working on reducing the size of the instrument, and a second generation ProteomicProcessor was produced early this year.
Lumera at first approached pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies with the instrument, but company leaders quickly realized that the instrument needed to be validated first, said Jaillet.
"Pharma companies are busy trying to develop new drugs, not developing new technological improvements," said Jaillet. "They look to research labs for that. So we said, 'All right. You can expect to see more collaboration agreements where we're placing these machines.' With new approaches like this, you have to get it tested and validated in a research organization. That's been our game plan for this year."
Once instruments have been tested by Lumera's collaborators, potential customers can go to those labs to see the ProteomicProcessor instrument in action, said Petcavich.
Tien-Shun Lee ([email protected])