A benchmarking study on protein sequencing, designed in part through Launch MI Lab, received some valuable industry attention last month.
I had the honor of working with 6 other scientists to develop the study, which involves using mass spectrometry to identify the N-terminus of proteins—that is, the amino terminal end of a protein molecule. The ability to identify the N-terminus of proteins is important for several reasons such as characterization of therapeutic and reagent proteins, study of protein processing as it relates to protein function, and ultimately how proteins affect living cells.
My role in the study was to evaluate mass spectrometry approaches to identify the N-terminus of proteins following chemical labeling and enzymatic digestion. The resulting method was used for a benchmarking study designed at Launch MI Lab. We completed the work in 2013, and it’s generated enough excitement that I and others on the team were invited to speak at the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) conference in Albuquerque, held March 22-24. ABRF is an international society of core and research biotechnology laboratories.
The meeting focused on technology education for researchers who manage or utilize core lab facilities. ABRF depends on research groups that design and conduct annual benchmarking studies around the world to evaluate the ways that core labs and research labs generate data. Studies for a given technology are designed at ask specific questions regarding sensitivity, specificity, reproducibility and other performance criteria.
Considering the magnitude of federal and private funding spent on biomedical research, evaluating the performance of these labs is worthwhile from both a technology development and education perspective.
Of course, going to New Mexico in March wasn’t a bad deal, either! But the real value of this opportunity is in demonstrating the impact of our lab operation far beyond our walls. The process we’ve designed is already proving useful in many different areas of life science research. In fact, the results from 14 labs worldwide were well received at the meeting. I heard comments like “This was a great study—I always wanted to try this,” and “I tried this but it didn’t work until this study showed how.”
The point I want to make today is this: Our work is truly global and collaborative. I’m thrilled to have been part of this effort, both personally and as a representative of the life science community in southwest Michigan.