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Genomics Giant BGI Expands into Protein Mass Spectrometry

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Cutting-edge LC and MS instrumentation will be available in the new BGI lab for proteomics and biologics characterization services.

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Over the last two decades, proteomics has emerged as a hotspot of innovation and discovery. A whole generation of scientists has come of age looking beyond genomics to the complex landscape of proteins. Now they’re bringing next-generation tools and expertise to the table to propel quantitative proteomics and protein characterization to the next level.

Shenzhen-based BGI Group, known for their global genomics and next-generation sequencing services, are expanding their expertise toward mass spectrometry. The company’s new laboratory in San Jose, CA, will offer an extensive line of protein analysis services for both research and drug development in the United States.

“This is a company that has established itself on providing big data analytical services to the global community,” said Aaron Oakley Bailey, PhD, product manager for BGI’s mass spectrometry services. “Proteomics is part of that.”

Uniting the “-omics”

Moving into proteomics feels like a natural progression from the genomics and transcriptomics services that BGI already provides, Bailey said. “We expect there to be a huge value for our customers in integrating proteomic analysis and other mass spec services,” he said. Turnaround times will be faster and costs lower, thanks to streamlined communication and processing systems that come from having many services under one umbrella.

The new mass spectrometry services will add to the company’s West Coast Innovation Center, in San Jose, which enables BGI to partner with pharmaceutical companies and work collaboratively on projects throughout various stages of development.

“We’re helping them take these genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics datasets and do more with them,” Bailey said. “This is the beginning of something really cool, and it makes sense to have all these different services and technologies under one roof.”

From start to finish

In the discovery phase, it doesn’t pay to narrow down your options too much. To that end, BGI offers open-ended proteomics tools for quantitatively identifying proteins in an unknown solution, even for highly complex mixtures containing multiple species.

Beyond protein identification, the new mass spec facility will provide candidate ligand screening, profiling of post-translational modifications and higher order structures, and peptide mapping in a streamlined pipeline. “We’re able to carry this to a pretty late stage in process development,” Bailey said, using a Multi-Attribute Method. With this technique, high-resolution LC-UV-MS/MS peptide mapping supplants a variety of other conventional assays, shortening development timelines considerably. The Multi-Attribute Method allows detailed assessment of process-related post-translational modifications and impurities.

“That’s something that offers a very high degree of customization,” said Bailey. For example, companies can monitor different batches of product to accurately measure changes that will alter the potency or quality of the drug. Or the technique can be equally useful in early stages, assessing hot spots or stability.

Experience makes the difference

Scientists at the new lab bring a deep understanding of the skills needed for every stage of analysis.

“We’ve designed this lab, and the services we’ll offer, to play on the strengths that we have in both biologics characterization and proteomics,” said Bailey. “That’s one of the unique offerings that we’ll have.”

Those strengths include a solid history of innovation in mass spec techniques. Bailey and Guanghui Han, PhD, the center’s director, have worked together for years, developing mass spec methods for biologics characterization prior to joining BGI Group.

Recent advances in mass spec instrumentation and software have made the technique indispensable for drug discovery and characterization of biopharmaceuticals. With their expertise, the scientists at the BGI center make efficient use of this versatile technology and can help design the right experiments for the desired goals.

“We are prepared and excited to support academic research as well as biopharma customers,” said Bailey. The role of the center, he said, will be “listening carefully to our customers, then working with them in a service respect, but also in a collaborative respect.”


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