Transforming the Pharmaceutical Industry with Biotherapeutics


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Biotherapeutics have transformed the pharmaceutical industry over the last decade, thanks to their specificity and efficacy. Identifying potential biological drugs, developing them, and ultimately manufacturing them is heavily reliant on analytical science.1  

Pittcon is the ideal place for scientists in the pharmaceutical industry to learn more about the current and up-and-coming analytical techniques for characterizing biological molecules.  The  ‘Introducing the Analytical Challenges of New Biotherapeutic Drug Modalities’ symposium will outline the role of analytical science in biotherapeutics and introduce the popular analytical techniques in the field, along with state-of-the-art developments.2

Light scattering, bioassays, immunoassays, and spectroscopic techniques can all provide valuable information about biologics and are popular within the industry. If you are looking to learn more about the commercially available technologies, make sure you also visit the Pittcon expo, featuring industry leaders like Bruker, Waters, and Wyatt Technology, who can talk you through the best options.3-6

Techniques for protein separation and purification

Proteins are the molecular machines that do almost all of the ‘work’ in our cells. Proteins make excellent biotherapeutics because they can replace deficient or abnormal proteins, augment existing biological pathways, provide new functions, interfere with a molecule or organism, or deliver other compounds to targets in the body.7,8

Protein separation and purification often rely on differences in their solubility, size, charge, or absorption characteristics. Sometimes several separation techniques are used in sequence to separate all the proteins in a mixture fully.9

Pittcon will feature protein separation technologies, including dialysis, ultrafiltration, electrophoresis, and field-flow-fractionation. Chromatography of proteins will also feature heavily both in the expo and symposia, with topics including ion-exchange chromatography, affinity chromatography, size-exclusion chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, and ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography. The Pittcon expo will include all the major chromatography vendors including Shimadzu, Advion, and Walters.9

At Pittcon this year, Professor Daniel Armstrong from the University of Texas at Arlington will receive the LCGC Lifetime Achievement in Chromatography Award for his work advancing analytical techniques that are vital to the future of biotherapeutics. His presentation is entitled 'From Micelles, Chiral and Ionic Liquids to Ultrafast and Molecular Rotational Resonance Detection.10

Infinite selectivity protein chromatography

Chromatography of proteins is frequently limited by poor selectivity and resolution, resulting in peak overlaps. At Pittcon this year, the winner of the LCGC Emerging Leader in Chromatography Award, Professor Szabolcs Feket from the University of Geneva, will give a presentation entitled ‘Approaching Infinite Selectivity in Liquid Chromatography for Protein Separations.'11

He will describe his method for protein chromatography, which uses multiple columns with increasing retentivity combined with multi-isocratic mobile phases. Proteins are trapped in different columns, depending on their unique properties. They are then washed out using pulsed mobile phases, resulting in sharp, compressed peaks and tunable selectivity.11

Mass Spectrometry in Protein Science

Mass spectrometry, often coupled with other techniques like liquid chromatography, is a central technique in protein science, providing identification, sequencing, and quantification, even in complex mixtures. The Pittcon expo will feature all the major mass spectrometry instrumentation suppliers including Advion, Agilent, ThermoFisher, and many more.12-14

Ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (IMS-MS) combines ion mobility spectrometry, which separates molecules based on their mobility through a buffer gas, and mass spectrometry, which determines the mass to charge ratio of the separated ions. IMS-MS is one of few techniques that can help us study folding mechanisms, a topic that is key to protein engineering for new biotherapeutics.15-17

This year, Pittcon will feature a dedicated IMS-MS symposium (the Thirty-First James L. Waters Symposium). Professor David Clemmer from Indiana University will present a talk on ‘Mass-spectrometry based Strategies for Characterizing Native and Non-native Protein Structures,’ discussing his work studying protein folding mechanisms.18

Professor David H. Russell of Texas A&M University will give a presentation entitled 'Native Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry for Studies of Membrane Complexes.' His talk will outline his work developing next-generation, high-resolution IMS-MS machines.19

Protein analysis is unlocking the future of medicine

Protein analysis has a vital role to play in personalized medicine. Biologics have been described as the 'sniper' of the drug world, but they are only useful if they are targeting the correct biological pathway for each patient. Profiling patients, tailoring medicines, and observing their results all rely on sophisticated analysis. We need to continue pushing the boundaries of existing analytical techniques and developing new technologies so that we can reach a future where every patient receives the most effective drug for them straight away.20


At Pittcon, you can learn everything you need to know about biotherapeutic characterization from the experts. Relevant topics include light scattering, bioassays, immunoassays, spectroscopy, dialysis, ultrafiltration, electrophoresis, field-flow-fractionation, chromatography, and mass spectrometry. From basic techniques to cutting-edge technologies, Pittcon has you covered!

Pittcon is the place to find the analytical knowledge and instrumentation you need for your projects in drug discovery, biomarker research, and precision medicine, so don’t miss it!

References and further reading

  1. ‘Biosimilars and Biologics’ –  Lucio S, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 2018.
  2. ‘Biotherapeutic products’
  3. ‘Recent applications of light scattering measurement in the biological and biopharmaceutical sciences’ – Minton AP, Analytical Biochemistry, 2016.
  4. ‘Dynamic light scattering: a practical guide and applications in biomedical sciences’  –Stetefeld J, McKenna SA, Patel TR, Biophysical Reviews, 2016.
  5. ‘Introduction to Biologic and Biosimilar Product Development and Analysis’ – Nagel KM, Springer 2018.
  6. ‘Infrared spectroscopy of proteins’  – Barth A, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Bioenergetics, 2007.
  7. ‘Proteins’ in ‘Pharmacognosy’ – Murray JE, Laurieri N, Delgoda R, Academic Press, 2017.
  8. ‘Therapeutic proteins’ – Dimitrov DS, Methods in Molecular Biology, 2012.
  9. ‘Protein Separation and Characterization Procedures’ in ‘Food Analysis’ –  Smith DM, Springer, 2017.
  10. ‘From Micelles, Chiral and Ionic Liquids to Ultrafast and Molecular Rotational Resonance Detection
  11. ‘Approaching Infinite Selectivity in Liquid Chromatography for Protein Separations’
  12. ‘Mass Spectrometry for Proteomics’ – Han X, Aslanian A, Yates JR, Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 2008.
  13. ‘Review: Antibody Protein Sequence Analysis Using Mass Spectrometry’
  14. ‘Separation of biological proteins by liquid chromatography’  – Ali I, Aboul-Enein HY, Singh P, Singh R, Sharmaa B, Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal,2010.
  15. ‘Native ion mobility-mass spectrometry and related methods in structural biology’  – Konijnenberg A, Butterer A, Sobott F, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Proteins and Proteomics, 2013.
  16. ‘Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry’ in ‘Mass Spectrometry, Encyclopaedia of Analytical Chemistry’ – Jiang W, Robinson RAS, Wiley, 2013.
  17. ‘The power of ion mobility-mass spectrometry for structural characterization and the study of conformational dynamics’ – Lanucara F, Holman SW, Gray CJ, Eyers CE, Nature Chemistry, 2014.
  18. ‘Mass-spectrometry based Strategies for Characterizing Native and Non-native Protein Structures
  19. ‘Native Ion Mobility-Mass Spectrometry for Studies of Membrane Protein Complexes
  20. ‘Protein analysis: key to the future’ – Boodhun N, BioTechniques, 2018.

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

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Last updated: Feb 1, 2024 at 7:16 AM


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