Amersham hikes protein purification throughput

Related tags Human genome Gene Dna Amersham

Amersham Biosciences has launched its AKTAxpress system for
high-throughput protein purification, claiming that it can process
samples at four- to eight-times the rate of any other system on the
market, writes Phil Taylor.

The completion of the Human Genome Project - a mammoth task in itself - has shifted attention to the thousands of proteins that are coded for by human genes. And as every gene can code for hundreds of different proteins, the emphasis is now on structural genomics, where the determination of a protein's three-dimensional structure requires large quantities of extremely pure protein.

Product Director of Purification Systems for Amersham Biosciences, Karsten Fjarstedt, told​ that the AKTAxpress system combines high-throughput protein purification with the ability to run four to 12 modules in parallel. Using the standard system , researchers can purify eight proteins in one day using a four-step protocol, or 16 samples overnight using a two-step protocol.

With four modules running that amounts to 48 samples a day, or around 10,000 a year, which would cope with the demands of even the largest structural genomics effort. The protein produced using the system is more than 95 per cent pure, the level needed for determining the structure using crystallisation and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, and up to 50mg of protein can be isolated per run.

This level of throughput, and the amount of protein produced, is a significant improvement over current systems based on robotics and liquid handling machines from the likes of Qiagen, said Fjarstedt.

Amersham expects the system to be used both by big pharmaceutical companies - which are always looking for different molecule and protein structures - and the big structural genomics consortia. There are 8-10 of these in the US and a further 6 or 7 in Europe, and they have a broad range of throughput goals, from a few hundred to several thousand protein structures a year.

One of the reasons drug companies are so interested in structural genomics is that revealing the structures of proteins should make it easier to design small molecules that can interact with them, potentially leading to novel, more effective and safer medicines.

The AKTAxpress is designed to purify protein tagged with His or GST, which account for more than 80 per cent of all the tagged protein purifications undertaken at present, according to Fjarstedt.

The new system is priced in the range of $100,000-$150,000.

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