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Proteome Sciences and Icon Collaborate on Mass Spec Assays for Pharma Biomarker Development


This story originally ran on Nov. 18.

By Adam Bonislawski

Proteome Sciences announced this week that it is partnering with Irish pharmaceutical services firm Icon to offer biomarker discovery and validation work in support of drug development efforts.

Specifically, Proteome Sciences will provide Icon's clients with its expertise in single-reaction monitoring mass spectrometry chief operating officer Ian Pike told ProteoMonitor. The companies' first joint project is the development of an SRM assay to measure a biomarker for an unnamed pharmaceutical company.

"[Icon's] pharma clients want contact with one organization for all of their biomarker workflow," Pike said. "Icon can offer the majority of those services, but at this stage it's not up to speed with the use of the SRM platform in protein biomarker assay development and implementation. So we've been able to fill that niche for them, and it gives us increased exposure for our biomarker services."

Mass spectrometry is a common tool in drug companies' biomarker development process, but, as Merck researcher Daniel Spellman noted in a presentation that ProteoMonitor reported on last month, effective use of the technique for biomarker work requires careful sample prep, quality assurance, and quality control steps (PM 10/08/2010).

"SRM isn't yet at the stage where it's plug-and-play," Pike said. "Trying to [develop SRM assays] for protein biomarker targets in plasma takes some know-how. We've developed quite a few SRM assays now, and we know the requirements for validation and quality assessment and control across all of the process steps."

The partnership aims to capitalize on what Pike described as a "groundswell" of interest in SRM-MS as a technique for biomarker development – especially where multiple proteins or proteins lacking a good antibody are concerned.

"If you can buy an immunoassay off the shelf and do validation on that, or develop [an immunoassay] at low cost and rapidly, that's still going to be the method of choice," he said. "But as soon as you want to measure more than a couple of [proteins], or if there's no immunoassay available, then [pharmaceutical companies] are looking to switch to SRM."

In particular, Proteome Sciences has seen an uptick in demand for SRM-MS work targeting post-translational modifications, Pike noted. Separate from the Icon agreement, the company recently developed assays measuring phosphorylation levels on tau protein for the study of Alzheimer's disease and is currently working on assays to measure the effects of different kinase inhibitors on tumor cells (PM 07/16/2010).

Pike predicted the Icon partnership would involve primarily biomarker validation rather than discovery. The company will build validation assays on a Thermo Fisher TSQ Vantage machine and do any discovery work on a Thermo Fisher LTQ Orbitrap Velos. Once developed, the assays can be run at Proteome Sciences' ISO-certified Frankfurt laboratory or transferred to Icon's facilities, he said.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in ProteoMonitor? Contact the editor at abonislawski [at] genomeweb [.] com.