Analysing proteins is a critical tool in many areas, including drug discovery and diagnostics. In diseases such as cancer and heart disease specific proteins may be modified or present in unusual amounts and so identifying these proteins can help in diagnosis or developing novel treatments. This can be achieved through mass spectrometry, a cost-effective technique for quantitatively analysing a large number of proteins simultaneously.
To work properly, mass spectrometers and the associated technique of liquid chromatography, need to be calibrated using robust standards to allow changes the quantity or structure of proteins to be accurately measured. With better standards, mass spectrometry can be used to greater effect and be capable of better analysing ever more complex challenges.
Professor Claire Eyers and her team have developed three reference standards, allowing labs to enhance the accuracy of their mass spectrometry-based measurements. Importantly, unlike other standards, these have been specifically designed to allow standardisation across different laboratories and instrument platforms, which means that different labs can reproduce results more easily.
These standards are fulfilling the needs of both the research community and clinicians, since protein analysis can be applied in a variety of areas including personalised medicine, clinical analysis, diagnostics, drug discovery, toxicology, food safety and quality control. Moreover, with the global proteomics market predicted to grow to over $20 billion by 2018, these standards are of great commercial value.
Two of the standards (QCAL and QCAL-IM) are already available commercially, with the third (RePLICal) due to be launched imminently. PolyQuant GmbH, a company specialising in quantitative proteomics solutions, manages the sales.
This commercialisation effort was a pragmatic choice for Professor Eyers, as academic, industrial and clinical researchers all benefit from more effective and widely applicable standards in mass spectrometry. She explains: “A research lab does not have the necessary infrastructure for production and distribution. Besides, we wanted our standards to be widely available, so licensing our technology and products to PolyQuant was the logical choice.”
Professor Eyers’ new venture is a bioanalysis company with colleagues Dr Hannah Roberts, Professor Sabine Flitsch and Professor Perdita Barran. Bio-Shape, registered in November 2015, will be providing protein and glycan structural analysis services to companies, and is the focus of her commercial efforts.