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Startup Minomic Teams up with PerkinElmer to Showcase Proteomics Products in Australia

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Last fall, Brad Walsh, a former manager of the Australian Proteomics Analysis Facility in Sydney, struck out on his own quest to found a company called Proteomeca (see PM 9-16-02). This week, the 5-person startup had some news to report: not only has it changed its name, but it has also teamed up with giant equipment manufacturer PerkinElmer in what some might say is an unlikely alliance.

The new name — Minomic — “is intended to reflect that we see bioinformatics, the idea of data mining, as very important,” said Walsh, the company’s CEO. “And of course we had to have an ‘omic’ in there. Everyone should invent their own ‘omic’ word once in their lives.”

What Minomic focuses on, of course, is prote-omics: PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences just chose the company as its partner for an “Asia-Pacific proteomics center of excellence.” What this means is that PerkinElmer will place its suite of proteomics products — including 2D gel electrophoresis and sample preparation equipment as well as imaging software, but not yet its proTOF MALDI mass spectrometer — at Minomic’s site in Frenchs Forest, a suburb of Sydney. In return, Minomic will serve as a demonstration site for potential customers of PE’s proteomics equipment and help develop new products. Moreover, the company might also provide training for PE customers on how to use the equipment.

Besides showcasing its proteomics products to potential customers in Australia and Southeast Asia, PerkinElmer hopes to tap into Walsh’s proteomics expertise, so that he will point them to the real needs of users. “What we want to make sure is that we don’t lose the connection with people who have expertise and a reputation in the field of proteomics, so we continue to develop innovative products,” said Sandra Rasmussen, who heads PE’s business unit for proteomics and array systems.

According to Walsh, the two companies started talking at the Siena proteomics meeting last fall, and soon discovered their common interest. Protein arrays are an area in which they might co-develop new applications, and other projects are still being defined.

But while the collaboration with PerkinElmer might help Minomic put its name on the Asia-Pacific map, this is only one aspect of its business. “We don’t intend to become an instrumentation manufacturer,” Walsh said. Rather, Minomic plans to discover protein biomarkers in the areas of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, and tooth enamel development.

In addition to PE’s 2D gel suite, Minomic uses liquid chromatography instrumentation from Waters, as well as a Q-TOF and a MALDI mass spec from Micromass. Furthermore, it uses a membrane-based electrophoretic protein separation device from Gradipore, a company that shares a building with Minomic.

Also, Minomic has access to patient samples through a number of teaching hospitals, diabetes research institutes, and clinicians throughout the country, according to Walsh.

The company is already doing collaborative research with the Cooperative Research Center for Eye Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. But Walsh came to the BIO 2003 meeting in Washington DC this week to look for additional collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

What is possibly most remarkable about Minomic is that despite what Walsh acknowledged was a bad year for raising venture capital, it managed to get off the ground at all. The company, which has a goal of doubling its staff by the end of the year, is currently funded through “one of our partners,” which Walsh declined to name, as well as private equity from business angels. “You get to a point where you think, ‘there is not a window of opportunity to start a business,’ so let’s get ourselves started,” Walsh said.

— JK

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