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SurroMed Wins Phase I SBIR to Develop Chemical Affinity Agents

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SurroMed said last week that the National Cancer Institute had awarded the company a phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to support research into developing new capture chemistries for use in proteomic profiling of biological samples. The grant of $150,000 is meant to cover research costs for about a year.

SurroMed plans to use the money to design capture agents capable of pulling out proteins with certain unspecified peptide sequences and with particular motifs indicative of protein function, said Chris Becker, Surro-Med's director of chemistry. Becker's group will rely on conventional bead-based linkers to purify the proteins bound to the capture agents.

“There are thousands of proteins in these mixtures, and it does help to simplify them,” Becker said. “There are a hundred and one ways to do that, such as with reverse phase and cation exchange, [but] the chemistry we're developing here is designed to be more selective.”

SurroMed plans to use the chemical affinity agents in a preliminary step prior to identifying the protein components via liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Unlike purification strategies such as the ICAT reagent technology, SurroMed’s affinity agents will not be used to help quantify the amount of particular proteins present in a sample. Instead, Becker’s group relies on its ability to churn out reproducible spectra and apply quality control techniques to compare expression levels across several samples.

SurroMed, based in Mountain View, Calif., has developed a drug target and biomarker discovery platform centered around separations and mass spectrometry for identifying proteins and metabolites, cytometry for isolating cell-surface markers, and ELISA immunoassays.

To perform its analysis of proteins and metabolites, SurroMed typically separates sample components into high and low molecular weight fractions, Becker said, and then digests the high molecular weight proteins prior to identification with mass spectrometry. Becker’s group uses both a Micromass Q-TOF and Thermo Finnigan ion trap mass spectrometer, he said.

In June, SurroMed signed an agreement with Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen to identify potential biomarkers for multiple sclerosis using its protein and metabolite analysis platform. Becker said it was unclear whether the chemical affinity agents under development would be applied to the Biogen collaboration.

In addition to the Biogen deal, Becker said SurroMed should be closing a handful of other research service deals with a mixture of pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

– JSM

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