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George Washington University Research Team Launches New Technology for Commercial Use to Analyze Biomolecules

Technology Applications of LAESI-MS Will Advance Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Research
September 13, 2011


WASHINGTON –George Washington University’s Vertes Research Group, led by Akos Vertes, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, is collaborating with Protea Biosciences, Inc., a leading developer of new bioanalytical technology, to offer the industry's first commercial bioanalytical services using laser ablation electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LAESI-MS) technology. Invented and developed by Dr. Vertes, founder and co-director of GW’s W.M. Keck Institute for Proteomics Technology and Applications, LAESI-MS is a breakthrough approach used for identifying proteins, peptides, lipids, metabolites and other biomolecules directly from cells, tissues biofluids and any other sample that contains water. This technology has the potential to support a broad range of applications in the fields of pharmaceutical and biological research, surgical and molecular pathology, clinical diagnostics, chemical and biological defense, forensics, agriculture, food process monitoring and many others.

“There are many applications in the pharmaceutical industry enabled by this technology,” said Dr. Vertes. “When new drugs are developed, the company, as well as the regulators, need to know where in the human body the pharmaceutical candidate and its breakdown products end up. This process is known as the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) analysis. Because LAESI-MS can quickly and directly analyze bodily fluids, as well as directly image the distribution of chemicals in tissue samples, it is ideal for performing ADME analysis.”

Regarding advances to chemical analysis, while researchers have been able to analyze bacteria, cells and tissues in the past, it took a significant amount of time and effort. LAESI allows for a much quicker and more comprehensive analysis. For example, rapid pathological tests during cancer surgery using this technology can make the difference between recovery or relapse.

Another advance made possible by this research is that single cells can now be analyzed in much greater detail than before this discovery. In the past, only a handful of the metabolite or lipid components in a single cell were analyzed. LAESI provides information on over 300 different biochemical components from individual cells. This, in turn, enables researchers to better understand how a single cell functions.

The first LAESI-MS services at Protea Biosciences will provide two and three-dimensional imaging of biomolecular distributions found in human, animal and plant tissue samples. The company has also developed a commercial LAESI prototype. Dr. Vertes and his team continue to work with Protea scientists to develop additional instrumentation and software that will bring the capabilities of the LAESI-MS technology to research laboratories worldwide.

In 2008, Protea Biosciences entered into an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with GW for commercial rights to LAESI-MS. This technique has already been demonstrated to be a powerful tool for basic research in biological and chemical sciences and presented with acclaim at major international conferences.

Established in 1821 in the heart of the nation’s capital, the George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is the largest of GW’s academic units. It encompasses the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and more than 40 departments and programs for undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. The Columbian College provides the foundation for GW’s commitment to the liberal arts and a broad education for all students. An internationally recognized faculty and active partnerships with prestigious research institutions place Columbian College at the forefront in advancing policy, enhancing culture and transforming lives through research and discovery.

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Jill Sankey - 202-994-6466 - [email protected]



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