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Feb 15, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 4)

Surface Plasmon Resonance Branches Out

Workhorse Label-Free Drug Discovery and Development Tool Tackles New Applications

  • From Lab- to Commercial-Scale

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    According to GE Healthcare, Biacore 4000 offers a complete solution for molecular interaction analysis, delivering high-quality data without compromising on throughput. The system hardware and software provide solutions for maximizing productivity in key areas such as antibody selection as well as biotherapeutic and LMW drug discovery, the company adds.

    Biacore, which has been part of GE Healthcare since 2006, has long been a global market leader in SPR instrumentation. The company’s platforms span a breadth of lab- to commercial-scale applications, with accordingly varying capacities for automation.

    In 2010, Biacore launched the Biacore™ T200, which it says builds on the sensitivity of its flagship Biacore T100 platform, to enable analysis of smaller compound interactions requiring lower protein concentrations, while “extending the space of measurable kinetic rate constants,” according to the company.

    In 2010, Biacore also launched the Biacore 4000 instrument, which operates in either high-throughput or high-data-content modes, for flexibility in higher throughput applications. The Biacore X100 is the company’s basic, desktop instrument.

    Biacore systems and other SPR technologies are increasingly being used or adapted, for instance, in the area of food safety and quality assurance. As just two examples, Biacore’s Qflex Kits have been developed—for use in conjunction with the Biacore SPR instrument—for such specific applications as determining the concentration of water-soluble vitamins in food products or the concentration of veterinary drug residues in livestock.

  • Drug Discovery Staple

    The strength of SPR for applications beyond the biomedical research field is by no means hampering its ever increasing adoption as a basic drug discovery and development tool. Evotec, for example, continues to forge new partnerships employing its EVOlution™ fragment-based drug discovery technology platform, which incorporates biochemical and biophysical techniques including SPR, nuclear magnetic resonance, and x-ray crystallography.

  • End-User Flexibility

    Whether the specific demand be for throughput or functionality for cell-based or secondary or tertiary assays, ultimately what is desired is to develop assays of interest for whatever molecule is desired as the basis for an eventual commercial product. With an eye to adaptability for different research needs, Biosensing Instrument  has developed numerous add-on modules to extend the capacity of SPR to accommodate molecules outside of fluidics and in applications beyond biomedical research.

    “Even though SPR is commonly used, many researchers are unaware of its new features and potential applications,” insists Nguyen Ly, Ph.D., director of R&D. “Our company provides platforms to meet the traditional needs for SPR in biochemical and biomedical research; but we have also designed our instrumentation to be adaptable to other research areas.”

    The company has developed what it calls analysis modules for these different research foci. Its electrochemical (EC) SPR platform couples EC to SPR capabilities, to allow simultaneous study of EC properties and binding behavior. This is useful for detecting ligand binding and conformational changes of biomolecules in different redox states.

    Dr. Ly says that the BI-DirectFlow™ technology was designed to enable “precision sample delivery with negligible dispersion” in a continuous liquid stream, for SPR analysis of fast binding kinetics, which may also be combined with EC capabilities. The company’s gas-phase SPR facilitates chemical vapor detections and can be used for development of gas-phase chemical sensors.

    The company’s offerings are in line with its philosophy to foster ubiquitous adoption of SPR as a common research tool.

    “Biosensing Instrument supplies SPR sensor chips, but we also actively work with customers to develop their own chips and cartridges, should they wish—something they cannot always do easily with other legacy SPR systems,” according to Dr. Ly. “We’ve also designed our detection stage to be more readily accessible, such that engineers, for example, who want to study fluid dynamics, or physicists who want to study the fundamental behavior of surface plasmons, can develop their own analysis modules, or flow cells, to be used with our instruments.”

    Eventually, Dr. Ly would like to see every lab with an SPR instrument of some sort. “SPR instruments should be seen to be as basic to the laboratory as is the microscope. Instead of glass slides, SPR chips will be commonly used to determine surface-binding events. SPR is truly becoming the accepted standard for optical-based binding studies,” he says, “and not just of proteins and DNA in fluids, but for any binding interaction whatsoever.”

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