AMRI partners with Bruker, HighRes in mass spectrometry for drug discovery

Mass spectrometry has in recent decades been widely used in drug discovery, and CRO AMRI just tapped Bruker Daltonics and HighRes Biosolutions to develop new applications for such services.

The core component of the partnership lies in AMRI’s acquisition of the new MALDI PharmaPulse system from Bruker and HighRes for deployment at its Integrated Drug Discovery Center.

Under the agreement, Bruker and HighRes will help train and provide consulting to AMRI biologists in developing protocols on the system.

“The protocols we can develop by applying the latest MS technologies to assay development have enormous potential for many disease areas, including such challenging areas as Alzheimer's disease and other neurological diseases,” said Grant Carr, senior director of lead discovery at AMRI, in a press release.

Germany-based Bruker is famous for its analytical instruments for application in the biopharma industry and research, and many of its products are used to study the physical structure and biological characteristics of molecules and atoms. Woburn, Massachusetts-based HighRes, on the other hand, is focused on robotic systems and laboratory devices for usage in the same industry.

The two companies first announced the breakthrough high-throughput screening (HTS) solution for drug discovery in 2015. It is based on the autoflex speed MALDI-TOF system from Bruker and an integrated robotics and automation program from HighRes. The companies at that time touted it as “the fastest commercially available mass spectrometry-based screening solution with significantly lower cost per sample.”

Besides, the label-free feature of the system could accelerate assay development and potentially minimize artifacts interference from the labels used in traditional HTS technologies.

As indicated in its name, the HTS system is based on matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) technology and could process a sample in about one second when it first came into being. The companies just recently upgraded it to enable analysis of up to 10 different samples per second, as announced at the SLAS 2017 event in Washington, D.C.

Pharma companies have been implementing high-throughput technologies for hit identification, one of the very early stages of drug discovery, as the process usually involves screening a large amount of compounds. The new MALDI PharmaPulse systems is capable of screening more than 10,000 samples per day in hit discovery mode.

Two biopharma giants, Boehringer Ingelheim and Genentech, have completed installations of the newly upgraded system in late 2016 at their facilities in Biberach, Germany, and San Francisco, California, respectively, said Meike Hamester, director of the Pharmaceutical Business Unit at Bruker Daltonics, in a press release.

Albany, New York-based AMRI will utilize its biological understanding and expertise to further develop the MALDI PharmaPulse technology for application in complex cell-based assays and an expanded portfolio of MS-based biochemical assays.