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Thermo Fisher Acquires Proteomics Firm Intrinsic Bioprobes

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Thermo Fisher Scientific said this week that it has acquired protein biomarker firm Intrinsic Bioprobes, adding to its clinical proteomics portfolio.

Founded in 1996 by Arizona State University Biodesign Institute researcher Randall Nelson, privately held IBI specializes in immunoenrichment-based sample prep tools for mass spec-based biomarker workflows and for quantitating levels of different protein isoforms, in particular.

"The Intrinsic Bioprobes portfolio will enhance Thermo Fisher's position in the rapidly emerging field of clinical proteomics, Chuck Kummeth, president of Thermo Fisher's laboratory consumables business, said in a statement. "It is a simple, yet powerful approach to uncovering the proteomic basis of disease, and it better positions our customers in their efforts to realize the promise of personalized medicine."

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The two companies have a history of collaboration. In July 2010, they partnered to develop and market a method for the detection of parathyroid hormone based on IBI's mass spectrometric immunoassay, or MSIA, platform (PM 07/16/2010). In February of this year, Mary Lopez, director of Thermo Fisher's BRIMS Center, told ProteoMonitor that researchers there were using IBI's platform to identify and quantitate protein biomarkers linked to stroke (PM 02/25/2011).

MSIA relies on a patented pipette immunoenrichment technology that uses a high-throughput, high-binding-capacity microcolumn activated with antibodies to isolate low-abundance proteins in complex samples. Researchers analyze the isolated proteins via selected-reaction monitoring mass spec, which enables them to quantitate protein variants.

Proteomics has seen a growing emphasis on work on protein variants and isoforms, as evidence grows that an understanding of these forms is key to basic biological and clinical research. For instance, in the case of IBI's PTH research, Nelson and several Thermo Fisher scientists identified a number of new protein variants associated with the hormone that could be useful in developing biomarkers for various skeletal and endocrine diseases.

Certain variants "will tell you something slightly different about the disease state you're in," Nelson told ProteoMonitor during a July 2010 interview. "So you're really looking for these slight idiosyncrasies in these hormones [and asking] 'Did it truncate, did it phosphorylate?'"

"When we applied mass spec immunoassay to it, we found that PTH is several different variants. People knew that, but they didn't know how broad it was," he said. "There are about 10 different versions of it in your body. And you can capture information on those 10 versions, or however many there are, using mass spectrometry."

In April, IBI launched its first in vitro diagnostic product based on the platform, an in vitro diagnostic for kidney disease and renal failure comprising assays for beta-2-microglobulin, cystatin C, and retinol binding protein. That assay is currently available through the CLIA-certified laboratory at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's Institute of Genomics Medicine.

According to Thermo Fisher, Nelson will continue to be involved with the business as a consultant. The company did not provide further information about its plans for integrating IBI, which employs 11 people, into its business.

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