Protea Biosciences was founded in 2001 by Steve Turner and a team of scientists at the Department of Chemistry, West Virginia University, to develop products that improve the recovery, analysis and identification of all types of biomolecules that are produced by living cells. During its early years, the company developed a number of proprietary products, including a microchip-based protein recovery system, protein standards for mass spectrometry, ultrapure MALDI matrices, and Progenta surfactants, optimized to recover proteins without interfering with downstream analysis by mass spectrometry.
During 2008-2012, Protea expanded its position in the Bioanalytics market by entering into an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with The George Washington University for the revolutionary LAESI® (Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization) technology platform. Invented in the laboratory of Akos Vertes, PhD., Professor of Chemistry and founder and co-director of the W.M. Keck Institute for Proteomics Technology, at The George Washington University. LAESI is a breakthrough technology that enables the identification of biomolecules (proteins, lipids, metabolites) in tissue sections and cells, without requiring any sample preparation.
In 2012, Protea launched the LAESI DP-1000: the first commercial product of our proprietary LAESI platform technology. This novel technology enabled capabilities including the ability to drill into and analyze small cell subpopulations, the analysis of live cells, cell lines and bacterial colonies, all by direct analysis without sample preparation. The LAESI DP-1000 received industry recognition, being selected as one of the “R&D; 100” top new inventions, and recipient of the 2012 Pittcon Bronze Award.
In 2014, Protea focused on strengthening our core business franchise by establishing our position as the world commercial leader in “Mass Spectromentry Imaging” (MSI) services: a new, emerging sector of the molecular information market.
Protea integrated our MSI services with existing state-of-the-art analytical methods to enable identification of both large and small molecules in all types of biological samples. This powerful combination gives Protea the unique ability to simultaneously analyze different classes of molecules, including proteins, lipids and metabolites. MSI offers breakthrough capabilities for pharmaceutical and clinical research to visualize biomolecules in normal and diseased samples.
In 2014, Protea teamed with George Washington University (GWU), Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International, and GE Global Research, for a cooperative agreement from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) “Rapid Threat Assessment (RTA)” program. The consortium was awarded up to $14.6 million. The goal of DARPA’s Rapid Threat Assessment (RTA) program is to develop new tools and methods to rapidly define the mechanism of action of a threat agent, drug, biologic or chemical on living cells – within 30 days from the time of exposure. Uncovering the mechanism of action of such agents in 30 days, compared to the years currently required, will aid the development of threat mitigations and countermeasures.
Protea expanded it’s Bioanalytical Services in 2015 to include integrated workflows combining both proprietary imaging technologies and biomarker discovery capabilities using state of the instrumentation and expertise. The ability to provide biotherapeutic or antibody characterization, advanced proteomics and metabolomics offerings with LCMS and MSI enabled the business to reach new customers, from large pharmaceutical and biotech companies to start-ups and virtual laboratories in need of these multimodal services.