This story originally ran on June 5.
Bruker and Bio-Rad Laboratories are launching a new system linking Bruker's MALDI-TOF/TOF platform with Bio-Rad's SELDI technology that is expected to enable researchers to detect a class of proteins and peptides that other technologies have tripped over.
The system, called Lucid Proteomics, is expected to hit the market in late summer or early fall. Previewed at this week's annual conference of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry in Philadelphia, it marks the first fruit of a co-marketing and co-development collaboration between the two firms announced in March [see PM 03/26/09].
Lucid Proteomics combines Bio-Rad's SELDI-based array technology with Bruker's ultrafleXtreme MALDI-TOF/TOF instrument launched in late April [see PM 04/30/09], allowing researchers to do both top-down and bottom-up profiling of proteins on the same system, "with no additional hardware," Julie Hey, marketing manager for the protein detection and protein function division of Bio-Rad, told ProteoMonitor at ASMS.
The ability to do top-down profiling on the ultrafleXtreme, she said, allows researchers to look at intact proteins. When the deal between Bruker and Bio-Rad was announced, both companies said that the collaboration was aimed specifically at developing new solutions for "the detection and high-confidence identification of intact peptides and proteins under 30 kilodaltons," which is not easily achievable with current technology.
This week, Hey said that the ability to do top-down profiling is "particularly relevant" for proteins that are 30 kDa and below. "If you do a traditional bottom-up approach, you're looking at tryptic cleavages. … At around 30 kilodaltons you're going to have [fewer] cleavage sites, and therefore your confidence in identification is going to be a lot less."
Darwin Asa, marketing manager for the Americas for Bruker Daltonics, added that high-throughput profiling on a MALDI platform will result in only a "couple of the most abundant proteins" being seen.
With the ability to do a top-down approach to detect and identify proteins at the 30 kDa-and below range, "now you can do a competent identification because you're looking at the whole protein," Hey said.
The top-down capability will also allow for analysis of post-translational modifications, truncations of larger proteins that have been in vivo, and proteolytic activities that are lost in bottom-up approaches, she added.
The Lucid system, which is for discovery proteomics, rather than targeted validation or verification, will be backwards compatible and researchers who already have an ultrafleXtreme or autoflex system from Bruker will be able to use the combination of the SELDI technology on those systems.
At ASMS, Bruker and Bio-Rad launched the Lucid ID Access Pack of consumables and accessories for use on the ultrafleXtreme platform. The next series of products will be "around the high-throughput profiling solution," Hey said.
The Lucid Proteomics system includes the ultrafleXtreme MALDI-TOF/TOF and SELDI array technology, software that integrates the two technologies, a chip holder that works specifically for Bruker instruments, the SELDI license, a system-check kit, and tools to help researchers properly design their experiments.
Not Your Mama's SELDI?
The system is the first product offering from a deal between two companies that was met by some with wrinkled brows and smirks when it was announced, as observers wondered why Bruker would be interested in a technology with as checkered a history as SELDI.
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Bio-Rad purchased the technology from Vermillion, then-called Ciphergen Biosystems, in 2006 for $20 million when Vermillion decided to transform itself into a diagnostics company [see PM 08/17/06].
Since then, Bio-Rad has provided little insight into how that business has performed while it has evaluated the platform's strengths and weaknesses, tweaked the technology, and developed methods for users to optimize results from their experiments [See PM 08/03/07 and 03/13/08].
Hey said this week that much of the issues surrounding the technology were researcher-based and due to experimental design and that Bio-Rad has "done a lot of work to ensure that there is reproducibility." She acknowledged, however, that one weakness of the SELDI has been its inability to do sequence identification.
The coupling of the technology with Bruker's instrument "definitely addresses the fact that you can now get a sequence ID," she said.
Asa said that as Bruker spoke with Bio-Rad, it was clear that with all the changes made to the platform that it wasn't your mama's SELDI anymore. "They've definitely made some advancement in the technology. They've added some pieces to the workflow [and], they've refined it."
The collaboration was also a chance for Bruker to partner with a company that is "very good at the workflow, the sample, the purification, [and] the isolation of proteins that feed into the mass spec," Asa said, and working together allows further development of the technology than could not be achieved by either firm alone.
As development of the SELDI technology continues, Asa and Hey said that the R&D shops at the two companies are ironing out possible glitches in the operating systems.
"It's not trivial to integrate all of this information [from the SELDI and ultrafleXtreme] together," Hey said. "That's what all of our R&D people are working on very diligently right now — making sure that all of the parameters and all the different settings on the instrument itself are … getting the most out of the SELDI arrays."
The firms are also exploring next applications for the Lucid system and ways to extract "the most power out of our sample preparation and [Bruker's] high flexibility in instrumentation," Hey said.
In particular, the companies are interested in exploiting the capabilities of Bruker's instruments for tissue imaging. "There are definitely some unique capabilities on the SELDI arrays themselves to do some molecular printing," she said, adding that that will call for the development of new consumables that would facilitate the printing of larger spots.