Environmental Proteomics to design antibodies for the global market

An exciting new business headquartered in Sackville will provide services to researchers around the globe.

Environmental Proteomics is an innovative biotechnology company initiated by Mount Allison research associate Dr. Amanda Cockshutt, associate professor Dr. Douglas Campbell, and Chris Brown, a PhD student from the University of New Brunswick.

The business fills a niche in the world market by manufacturing custom-made tools (antibodies) used in the study of proteins. Antibodies for use in typical laboratory subjects such as mammals are easily obtained, but it is very difficult to find these tools for use with other organisms, such as fish, plants, and algae. Recognizing the need for these products through his own research at Mount A over the last six years, Campbell appreciated the innovative applications of his findings.

Much of Campbell’s research is done on areas such as oceans, lakes, and marshes, home to mixed communities of photosynthetic organisms. Needing tools to detect major photosynthetic protein complexes present in a large number of species, Campbell started a collaboration with the Swedish-based company, AgriSera AB, which has agreed to produce eight antibodies against photosynthetic core proteins.

Now the technology that Campbell developed has grown into a business, Environmental Proteomics. Its product range is what puts the Sackville-based company on the leading edge of the world market. From a sample of algae to a leaf of spinach, the “global” antibodies produced detect proteins involved in the photosynthesis process, which harvests light energy. The company also produces pure quantitated recombinant proteins that can be used as standards. This is a very important aspect because standard applications allow researchers to measure definitively the levels of proteins in question in their samples.

Not stopping there, the company is also working to identify other areas of environmental research where its tools can be applied. Under consideration is a suite of tools to measure the stress levels in fish, which will be beneficial in the study of aquaculture and the industries related to it.

The company hopes to be able to go one step further and offer their research as a service, along with the tools as a product. Researchers will be able to send their samples to Environmental Proteomics and they will prepare and examine them and provide a data report.

While Mount Allison does not have a financial stake in the company, the University is still very involved in the process by providing Proteomics staff with the flexibility needed to do their research. In January the institution received a grant of over $176,000 from the provincial government and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. These funds will support the development of a strategy for establishing an International Centre for Biotechnology Innovation. Environmental Proteomics will play an important role in this effort.

http://www.environmentalproteomics.ca, http://www.mta.ca

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