Our business is “integrated molecular profiling” – we provide new capabilities to our clients to identify the many diverse types of biologically active molecules that are the natural products of all living cells and life forms. Our customers use the molecular information we provide to achieve their research objectives in the fields of pharmaceutical clinical, and industrial research.
“Integrated Molecular Profiling” refers to the generation and bioinformatic processing of very large data sets, obtained by our technology, to identify and characterize the proteins, metabolites, lipids and other biomolecules that are the byproducts of all living cells and life forms.
We apply our technology to the development of next generation, “direct molecular imaging” capabilities that enable more rapid and comprehensive molecular profiling of human disease.
“We are leading a new era in biology, one where new bioanalytical technologies and integrated workflows will rapidly, directly and simultaneously identify proteins, metabolites, lipids in cells and tissue samples, where even their molecular interactions in cells can be visualized.”
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. Results are available in seconds to minutes, and comprehensive, permanent molecular databases can be generated on all types of biological samples.
In 2012 and 2013, Protea launched the LAESI DP-1000: the first commercial embodiment of our proprietary LAESI platform technology, enabling many “first ever” 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. With over 50 peer-reviewed publications and 11 issued patents, LAESI has achieved scientific and market acceptance as a next generation, bio-analytics platform.
In 2014, Protea focused on strengthening our core business franchise by establishing our position as the world commercial leader in “Mass Spec 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 research and medical diagnostics to visualize biomolecules in normal and diseased samples
In 2014, a number of Protea clients elected to purchase their own LAESI system for in-house use. Protea also expanded its Bioanalytical Service customer base, which now includes several of the world’s leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and healthcare companies.
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.
In 2015 and 2016, our Bioanalytical Services offering evolved 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 together with 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. The LAESI system was also purchased by a number of researchers for their own research during this period.
We commenced our collaboration with Agilent Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: A) to address customer challenges within existing Biopharma bioanalytical workflows in order to meet the emerging needs of the growing biopharmaceutical industry. Under Terms of the Agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Protea, using Agilent instrumentation combined with its technology, will develop workflows that focus on developing new methods for the field of metabolomics. We entered into a collaborative research initiative with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Dana-Farber) that uses Protea’s mass spec imaging (MSI) technology to analyze cancer cells. The initial focus is early stage lung adenocarcinoma. The studies will apply Protea technology to generate molecular profiles of sub populations of cancer cells in tissue to improve the understanding of a cancer’s origin. We entered into an exclusive license agreement with Yale University for new Mass Spec Imaging (MSI) technology to improve the differential diagnosis of malignant melanoma. The technology was developed jointly by the laboratory of Rossitza Lazova, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology and Pathology at Yale School of Medicine and Protea Biosciences.
We entered into a business collaboration with Protein Metrics Inc. a premier provider of software solutions for the comprehensive characterization of proteins, to advance our analytical capabilities for use in the development of protein biotherapeutics.
Throughout our future, we will expand our proprietary methods for molecular imaging and bioanalytical workflows. By bringing new developments in sample analysis and instrumentation, our capacity to provide big data to researchers will continue to advance, to meet the needs of tomorrow’s scientists for better, more comprehensive molecular information.