Scientists Lead Efforts in Groundbreaking Proteomics Research Alliance

Posted: March 30, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Patty Snellings

George Mason will combine resources and expertise with Boston-based PerkinElmer Inc., a leading provider of drug discovery, life science research and analytical solutions, to create next-generation proteomics technologies to identify, measure and analyze newly discovered biomarkers that may detect early-stage breast, ovarian and lung cancers.

Proteomics, the study of protein activity in cells, is an emerging field in medicine that holds the promise of early disease detection and personalized medical treatment. Biomarkers for early disease detection, prognosis, stratification and treatment may comprise proteins, fragments of proteins or other biological indicators of cellular function found in human blood.

Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin III, co-directors of the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, along with scientists from PerkinElmer’s Life and Analytical Sciences division, will lead these efforts.

“This innovative partnership will become a major driver in the rapidly emerging field of proteomics and represents the first commercial venture of this magnitude for the university,” says Mason President Alan Merten. “But more importantly, it is an opportunity to meld the international reputations of Mason scientists with the globally respected expertise of PerkinElmer to develop new technologies for clinical research that will ultimately reduce suffering caused by cancer.”

The five-year alliance calls for the creation of a proteomics technology to accurately measure and detect specific protein fragments – predicted to be a new type of biomarker – from a drop of blood.

The proposed technology will then be utilized in large-scale clinical trials to determine whether or not the protein fragments that are thought to be a new type of biomarker identify the presence of cancer, discriminate cancer from other benign diseases and/or determine that a patient does not have cancer.

“For improved patient outcomes, new diagnostics are needed,” says Robert Friel, president, PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences. “We are excited to provide technology that allows for proteomic researchers to focus on new biomarkers for breast, ovarian and lung cancer. Collaborating with George Mason University’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine provides an excellent opportunity to combine the superior technology of PerkinElmer and the systems biology research approach of this great institution.”

The alliance builds on a recent discovery by Liotta and Petricoin of an archive of protein fragments in the blood. Their research was unveiled in the October 2005 issue of Clinical Chemistry.

“This untapped archive of protein fragments from diverse tissue and cellular origins may offer vital disease-related information,” theorizes Liotta.

Petricoin explains that the alliance goes beyond the rigorous validation and discovery of new markers for cancer to a new and unprecedented paradigm for disease detection using a new type of biomarker. “The new concept – that disease detection lies in the information stored in fragments of proteins – requires both the precise mass and the amino acid sequence of the candidate biomarker.”

“While we are just beginning a process of discovery and validation, our work has the potential to someday directly impact patient care and perhaps even save thousands of lives each year,” says Liotta.

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