Procognia has developed the first commercially available lectin array designed for analyzing glycoproteins in a high-throughput manner, the com pany announced last week. In addition, the proteomics startup has secured PerkinElmer as the exclusive distributor for the product.
“The beauty of this approach from a high-throughput perspective is that it doesn’t require any purification of proteins,” said Sandra Rasmussen, business manager for PerkinElmer’s functional genomics and proteomics division. “Conventional approaches generally require purification of protein and digestion into peptides.”
According to Johanna Griffin, the CEO of UK-based Procognia, a typical approach for analyzing glycosylation involves first harvesting samples in culture medium and then purifying proteins in two steps. Then glycans are cleaved from proteins using PGNaseF, an enzyme which researchers say is expensive and difficult to work with.
Following this workup, which takes about two days, samples are analyzed using MALDI mass spectrometry. If the glycans contain sialic acid, additional MALDI MS analysis is required.
In total, glycosylation analysis of 50 to 60 samples takes about four days using conventional approaches, said Griffin, and the analysis takes a significant amount of scientists’ “hands-on” time.
In contrast, with Procognia’s new lectin array, called the U-c fingerprint, 20 samples can be analyzed in about three hours, said Griffin.
“No sample purification is required, and, because it is automated, hands-on time is minimal,” Griffin added. “This is the only way of analyzing glycosylation on proteins in a high-throughput, automated way.”
The new array is being marketed in conjunction with PerkinElmer’s Protein Array Workstation and ProScanArray. Financial terms of the companies’ deal were not revealed.
“We’re very pleased to work with PerkinElmer because they have such a strong marketing element in the market we want to address,” said Griffin. “We’re looking forward to tapping into PerkinElmer’s existing system. It should really help us to get our product accepted more quickly and with a known name.”
Rasmussen said PerkinElmer views the new Procognia partnership as a very appropriate strategy to bring to the company’s customer base.
“With Procognia’s deep IT expertise, this is a solution that leverages our robust, reliable products,” Rasmussen said. “This is a terrific technology for studying glycosylation.”
The U-c fingerprint lectin array is a slide coated with a nylon membrane that has 600 spots on it, comprised of 30 different lectins. The lectins have overlapping specificity that, according to Griffin, recognize “all the known features of glycans on glycoproteins.”
The presence and quantity of intact glycoforms, such as glycoproteins, bound to each lectin on the biochip is measured by scanning the probe label intensity across the biochip. Data from the intensity scan are normalized and interpreted by Procognia’s proprietary algorithms to produce a fingerprint.
Further analysis and interpretation of the fingerprint data can then be done by searching both public and proprietary databases to produce the sequence and profile of all glycans present on the glycoforms in the sample. Because the original data is detected on intact molecules, the algorithms and software are able to relate glycans to each other on individual protein cores to produce a glycoform profile. This kind of profile can not be done using conventional methods, according to the company, because with those methods, glycans are cleaved from the proteins they are attached to before undergoing analysis.
Procognia will produce the lectin arrays, and will monitor its customers to see what kind of improvements can be made on the technology.
“There’s still some differences we can’t see today — some types of linkages, and some things we can’t quantitate,” said Griffin. “In the future, there will be new features that appear that we don’t know anything about today, so we’ll have to extend the features of the slide.”
The new lectin array was developed over a period of four years, said Griffin, and it has already been used by about 10 to 15 companies on a fee-per-service basis. Griffin would not disclose the price of the array, but said the price is competitive with other methods of glycoanalysis.
John Danner, the vice president and general manager of PerkinElmer’s life and analytical sciences unit, said the first customers for the lectin array will probably be biopharmaceutical companies with a variety of potential drug applications that are working on things like clone selection using methods that lack the throughput and specificity of the Procognia platform.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to have such a deep application focus,” said Danner.
Danner said that the deal between PerkinElmer and Procognia is “immediately break even” because neither company is investing a large amount of cash.
“We’re investing our sales team resources into this, and the other part of the relationship is strategic sourcing of hardware platform into Procognia,” said Danner. “Neither of those is large cash-out, so the notion of break even doesn’t really apply. The product will flow in through existing distribution channels.”