Scientists could save time on protein sample preparation with startup’s automated system

Progress in genomics and the surge in clinical development of biomarkers and biologics underscore the impact of protein research on medicine. So it doesn’t work in researchers’ favor that preparing a protein sample for research is quite a process.

Perfinity Biosciences came to life two-and-a-half years ago with an idea from Purdue University professor Fred Regnier to automate several steps of the protein sample preparation process for mass spectrometry analysis.

“With proteins, because they’re so big, the preparation before you go to mass spec is a pretty vexing process with a lot of manual steps that take a lot of time,” said President and CEO Steve Plump.

The West Lafayette, Indiana company markets a five-column system called the Perfinity Workstation that automates the extraction, buffer exchange, trypsin digestion, desalting and reverse phase separation of protein samples. R&D Magazine last year named the system a R&D 100 Award Winner.


Now a new marketing and distribution deal with Missouri-based Shimadzu Corp., which makes analytical instruments, will allow the company to commercialize a second product, the Perfinity Integrated Digestion Platform. It’s a three-column system that performs the last three steps of the Workstation’s process and can reduce sample preparation time from several hours to 30 minutes or less, Perfinity says.

“There are two processes that are useful in preparation: the first part of that is to actually extract the protein out of a fluid, and then the second part of that, once you pull them out and purify them, is to break them into smaller pieces called peptides,” Plump explained.

Whereas researchers analyzing a blood sample would need both parts of the process, the new three-column system might be more efficient for a pharmaceutical company that wanted to do some quality control work on a protein drug it manufactures, for example.

“Now that we’ve got this global agreement, we can begin to work with customers around the world in applying this platform to their needs,” Plump said.

Perfinity’s tools share features with other sample preparation devices made by Digilab Global, PerkinElmer and ThermoScientific, and competition will likely continue to grow along with the $3.3 billion global market for mass spectrometry tools and services.

“Right now we’re in a position where we’re looking to grow our customer base, and from there we’ll continue to innovate around those columns and solutions,” he said.

[Photo from Perfinity Biosciences]

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