Proteomics: Business or Add-On?
This article was originally published in Start Up
Advocates of proteomics argue that without an understanding of protein interactions, drug researchers will be attempting to paint Old Masters with an incomplete set of genomic paint-by-number instructions.
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There's growing conviction that gene arrays are less useful than first imagined for expression studies and diagnostics--and that directly reading protein expression will more likely provide an accurate picture of biological status-health, disease, and pharmaceutical response. Thus, a number of companies have started up to create, on the analogy of gene arrays, protein arrays, to allow the simultaneous and quantitative testing of large numbers of proteins-potentially thousands.But the task is easier said than done. First, there are too few proteins known to allow testing for worthwhile expression patterns; and, second, because of the delicacy and variety of proteins, surface chemistry and other problems have historically made arrays impractical. None of this daunts the start-ups who, opportunistic, are looking to exploit the markets they think they can get to first: clinical diagnostics and pharmaceutical clinical development programs.
Two-dimensional gel techniques have improved over the years, but remain insufficient to address the complex questions confronting today's proteomics researchers. Proteome Inc. is working on longer gel formats which will enable it to detect the entire proteome of organisms like yeast on a single gel.
San Diego-based virtual start-up Vascular Genomics Inc. is leveraging its proteome research--specifically, proteomic maps of the human vascular endothelium--into therapeutic candidates.