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Protea to Develop Albumin-capture Tool Based on Johns Hopkins Research

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Protein services and sample-preparation firm Protea Biosciences this week announced it has in-licensed biomarkers discovered by Johns Hopkins University researchers that it will use to develop a tool to capture proteins implicated in heart disease.

The proteins, which are bound to human serum albumin and the albumin molecule itself, were discovered by Jenny Van Eyk and her team at JHU, where she is a professor of medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins NHLBI Proteomics Center.

In a statement, Steve Turner, CEO of Protea, said that Van Eyk had identified at least 35 proteins carried by albumin, including several that may have relevance for cardiovascular disease. Calling the findings "the top of the iceberg," he added "there are many more proteins carried by albumin, as well as changes in the albumin itself, that have the potential to yield important new data for identifying specific types of heart disease."

The researchers have discovered that during myocardial ischemia, the albumin molecule can change, which may prove clinically relevant. Protea plans to apply the discoveries to develop products to analyze albumin from the bloodstream, Turner told ProteoMonitor.

"What's needed is a new type of product to capture albumin from the bloodstream in a very sensitive and specific way," he said, adding it is likely to take the form of 96-well plates. The company is not interested in developing diagnostic tests around the proteins, but may partner with another firm to do so, Turner said.

In November, at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions, Van Eyk presented research in which she said she and her colleagues had uncovered five proteins that significantly increase after an ischemic event: lumican, semenogelin, angiogenin, extracellular matrix protein, and so-called long palate, lung, and nasal epithelium carcinoma-associated protein 1 [see PM 11/13/08]. Those proteins are covered by the licensing agreement, Turner said.

The deal with JHU is the first such agreement with a diagnostic angle for Protea, Turner said. Based in Morgantown, W. Va., Protea is a sample prep firm that last year began offering a protein-analysis business, called gelSTAT.

In May, Protea announced a drug development deal with French biopharma Laboratoires Mayoly Spindler for the treatment of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

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