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A chemo-affinity toolkit for methylation proteomics

2015 Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition
Genome Centre(s):
Genome British Columbia
Project Leader(s):
Fraser Hof (University of Victoria)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Phase 1 Project

Human cells contain tens of thousands of proteins, most of them controlled by modifications that can be as small as a single carbon atom (“methyl group”) added in subtly different ways. Although they are small, they all have critical roles to play in switching proteins on or off, or completely rewiring their interaction networks. The analysis of modifications like methyl is very hard to do, because they are chemically subtle and occur in tiny amounts. As well, antibodies, though flexible and powerful, are inherently challenged when it comes to the global analysis of methyl modification. Researchers and clinical testing centres worldwide lack a global, reliable, and universally accepted method for doing methyl analysis. The market for methyl-targeted research and diagnostics is growing rapidly and ripe for disruption.

Dr. Fraser Hof and his team at the University of Victoria specialize in supramolecular chemistry – the science of making chemicals that selectively bind other molecules. The team will adapt a family of binding chemicals that can bind methylated proteins. With this proof-of-concept work, the team will demonstrate that agents with the required selectivities are achievable, and establish that they can operate within normal protein analysis (proteomics) workflows. Chemical agents of these kinds are made in highly reproducible, pure batches, meaning that their performance from batch to batch and lab to lab are intrinsically superior to those of antibodies. This foundational technology will transform methylation research, lead to new medicines and diagnostics, and drive sales, new jobs, and new science in dozens of research labs and thousands of diagnostics centres.