March 15, 2007 (Vol. 27, No. 6)

Jonathan Witonsky

Diversity of Array Formats Can Scare Away Researchers

Numerous technological advancements have been integrated into proteomics array technologies. Enhanced surface chemistries combined with enlarged content menus are allowing manufacturers to develop proteomics arrays that are amenable to an extensive range of applications. Today, proteomics arrays are commercially available in a number of different formats, including sandwich-assay arrays, single-capture arrays, and reverse-phase arrays.

Array suppliers are also constantly augmenting their product lines with novel arrays that contain valuable content, including antibodies, functional proteins, peptides, and tissue extracts, to support the value proposition of their technology format. Proteomics arrays are currently available with organism-specific, sample source-specific, and disease-specific content. Providers of array formats that are compatible with a broad selection of content are witnessing the rampant adoption of their products as each format provides researchers with a distinct tool applicable to a variety of research aims.

Proteomics array technologies that are well suited to a wide range of applications throughout the fields of basic research, drug discovery, and diagnostics will likely be the most widely accepted by customers. Such applications might include protein expression profiling, antibody specificity profiling, immune response biomarker profiling, screening protein-protein interactions, screening kinases, profiling major enzyme classes, and so on.

Additionally, numerous market opportunities exist outside of basic research and drug discovery research. A growing number of proteomics array suppliers are targeting niche markets to expand their market potential. Some of the application areas include biodefense, environmental sciences, agricultural research, and forensics.

While technological enhancements have motivated a large number of researchers to adopt proteomics arrays, the breadth of available formats often delays prospective customers’ product acquisition. There is a considerable degree of hesitation among researchers who are unable to distinguish between alternative proteomics array formats and are, therefore, reluctant to initiate the application of array-based tools for their research.

Moreover, hesitation among researchers partially arises after witnessing their colleagues struggle to provide significant data with proteomics array technologies. For example, the application of flow cytometry systems or planar proteomics array technologies are often too complicated, time consuming, and labor-intensive. Over the past five years, many innovative and enabling proteomics array technologies, such as high-density planar proteomics arrays, have emerged; however, the stigma from last-generation proteomics discovery platforms continues to invoke trepidation among potential proteomics array users.

When researchers are discouraged by the lack of a winning technology, they often revert to alternative technologies. For example, single-plexed ELISAs can often take the place of quantitative multiplexed immunoassays. Without strong convictions about a particular array format, researchers will simply resort to using technologies such as ELISAs.

In response, proteomics array providers are marketing their products as complimentary with alternative proteomics array format. These suppliers contend that efficient research and drug discovery pipelines will likely depend on the numerous types of proteomics array platforms applied together. Such a pipeline might have high-density proteomics arrays for discovery; microplate-based, multiwell proteomics arrays for initial validation; bead-based arrays for secondary validation; and single-plex technologies, such as ELISAs, for tertiary validation.

Jonathan Witonsky is an industry
analyst in the drug discovery
technologies and clinical diagnostics group of Frost & Sullivan.
E-mail: [email protected]

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