IMB speeds protein research with new tool

By Pete Young
Monday, 18 February, 2002

A new proteomics research tool that looks like a bar fridge and costs a cool $500,000 is giving a handy competitive edge to Queensland's Institute of Molecular Bioscience.

The institute claimed its recent purchase of the first Ciphergen ProteinChip instrument in Australia is delivering astonishing productivity gains over earlier gel-based research processes.

Direct placement of complex proteins on a proprietary chip substrate can compress three months of cumbersome 2D gel procedures to 30 minutes, said IMB researcher Prof Paul Alewood.

The cumulative effect of such gains during early stage toxicity studies could shave as much as two years off a typical drug development cycle, IMB co-director Dr Peter Andrews predicted. He said he believed the instrument would help consolidate the institution's reputation for cutting-edge research into protein interactions.

Made by Silicon Valley company Ciphergen, the ProteinChip instrument was imported through Victorian distributor Advanced Labs. It identifies proteins and analyses protein components by vaporising samples with a nitrogen-based laser. The technology has been around for about two years and several hundred of the systems are in operation around the world, mostly in hospitals where they are used in disease profiling work.

IMB said it had no plans for making the new system available to external agencies on a commercial basis.

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