GE Healthcare turns up heat on interactions with MicroCal buy

By Dr Matt Wilkinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ge healthcare Pharmacology

GE Healthcare has bought label-free molecular interaction analysis expert MicroCal to bolster its label-free analysis offering to life science and pharmaceutical customers.

The acquisition will give GE Healthcare access to MicroCal’s microcalorimeter technology that provides detailed structure, function and binding information about a wide range of biomolecules such as proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and antibodies.

While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, GE Healthcare have been keen to stress that it will be looking to build upon the considerable success that MicroCal has enjoyed over the last few years and try to help the company realise its full potential.

The growing trend towards structure-activity based drug design and the increasing interest in biopharmaceuticals is helping to drive increased use of microcalorimetry as a standard technique in pharmaceutical research.

According to Ger Brophy, general manager of the Advanced Systems segment within GE Healthcare’s Life Sciences division, the MicroCal technology is highly complementary to GE Healthcare’s Biacore platform that provides detailed binding information about the specificity, strength and kinetics of biomolecular interactions.

“The Biacore instruments have been particularly successful in many drug discovery applications as they provide researchers with a label-free method of interrogating how molecules bind together using a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) –based detection method,”​ said Brophy.

“However, researchers would then often want to gain a deeper understanding of the strength of the interactions and would turn to microcalorimetry.”

Microcalorimetry enables researchers to determine the energetics and stoichiometry of the intermolecular interaction being studied.

“Two molecules will bind together if it is thermodynamically favourable and in doing so they release a small amount energy. MicroCal’s instruments detect that minute amount of heat given off and provide unique information about the nature of the binding event,”​ said Brophy.

“That extra thermodynamic information about drug-target interactions makes it easier to advance or retard compounds earlier in the drug development process and helps stop pharmaceutical firms wasting time and effort on unsuitable candidates.”

He continued by saying that Biacore and MicroCal instruments are found side-by-side in many laboratories, with researchers using the data generated by both instruments to provide a complete picture of intermolecular binding events.

Both methods work on ‘native’ components and do not need researchers to spend time labelling components with fluorescent or radioactive labels so that interactions can be observed.

Additionally they both require only micrograms of compound so that interaction analyses can be conducted during the earliest stages of the drug discovery process.

MicroCal offers two different ultrasensitive calorimetry technology platforms used to investigate biomolecular interactions: differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), which measures energy changes brought about by changing the temperature; and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), in which energy changes are measured upon mixing two components.

DSC provides information about the stability of biological systems while ITC enables the simultaneous determination of binding constants, reaction stoichiometry, enthalpy and entropy to provide a complete thermodynamic profile of a molecular interaction in a single experiment.

According to Brophy, another area where the MicroCal instruments have been very successful is in testing that new drug formulations are made as thermodynamically efficient as possible so that they release the drugs effectively once in the body.

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