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Thermo Fisher's BRIMS Center, Expression Pathology Developing SRM Workflow for Cancer Biomarker Identification


This story originally ran on Dec. 17.

Thermo Fisher Scientific this week announced a collaboration between its Biomarker Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry center and Expression Pathology to develop assays for identifying cancer protein biomarkers.

Under the terms of the collaboration, the two firms will apply Thermo Fisher's expertise in protein analysis by mass spectrometry and Expression Pathology's sample preparation technology for formalin-fixed paraffin embedded tissue to develop single-reaction monitoring assays.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While FFPE is routinely used in light-microscopy research, proteomics work has relied on immunohistochemistry and tissue morphology for the analysis of FFPE tissue. IHC, however, has been limited by the fact that antibodies don't exist for many, if not most, proteins.

In addition, the technology has limited throughput and sensitivity and its interpretation is often subjective, Thermo Fisher said in a statement.

The goal of the collaboration is to develop a workflow circumventing the use of antibodies that would be more sensitive "and provide high-quality quantitative information about a much wider range of specific proteins that are suspected of being markers for cancer," Thermo Fisher said.

Earlier this year, Expression Pathology, based in Gaithersburg, Md., announced a method, developed in collaboration with contract research organization NextGen Sciences, for quantitatively measuring protein expression in FFPE [See PM 04/23/09]. The utility of the approach, which uses multiple-reaction monitoring, was demonstrated with the HER2 protein, a biomarker for breast cancer.

Under the current deal, the plan is to combine Expression Pathology's Director Laser Microdissection method to collect specific cell types from FFPE tissue. The company's Liquid Tissue method for solubilizing and capturing the total protein content would then be applied to the tissue. SRM using Thermo Fisher's mass specs would then be used to measure targeted proteins, and Pinpoint software developed by BRIMS would link the tissue images with the quantitative mass spec data.

"This collaboration extends our quantitative proteomics workflows into novel areas and complements our current focus on biomarker discovery and its translation into the clinical research environment," Mary Lopez, director of the BRIMS center, said.

BRIMS is based in Cambridge, Mass.

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