The past 20 years have witnessed an explosion of techniques for the characterisation of biological molecules. From the advent of high-throughput screening techniques to the rapid progress towards low-cost genome sequencing, the tools available for scientists to characterise biological systems have never been so complete or advanced so rapidly.
With the Human Genome Project has come a wealth of information about the susceptibility of individuals to certain diseases and disorders. The resultant wave of investment in new genetic screening technologies and services has triggered a transformation of attitudes towards the use of biological analytic tools to guide the application of medical care that continues at pace today. Accompanying these changing attitudes has been a staggering increase in the accuracy of genetic screening tests, and a corresponding drop in the time and cost of performing them.
In stark contrast to these rapid advances in nucleic acid characterisation, recent advances in the ability to characterise proteins have been negligible. A major impediment to such advances is the fact that protein analysis largely relies on tools, including immunoassays and optical spectroscopy, that have remained fundamentally unchanged for several decades. This state of affairs has left protein scientists encumbered by tools that are imprecise, time-consuming, costly or all three of the above.
There is thus a pressing need for new analytical tools to characterise proteins.
Why Proteins Are Important
“One should see life as consisting of a script, which is DNA, and the actors, which are largely proteins…”
– James Watson, Nobel Laureate and Co-Discoverer of the Structure of DNA
Proteins are the direct, real-time indicators of the state of a biological system. While DNA can tell us that a person is likely to develop a given disease at some point in life, it is proteins that signal whether that same person is actually developing the disease at a given point in time.
This distinction matters. The ability to detect and quantify subtle changes in proteins holds the potential to accurately identify the right time for treatments to be applied – neither so early that side-effects and costs are endured when they are not required, nor so late that the debilitating impact of the disease can no longer be avoided.
But before this potentially revolutionary impact on medical care can be realised, tools that enable proteins to be characterised rapidly, accessibly, sensitively, quantitatively and comprehensively are required.
Fluidic Analytics is striving to develop these tools.
Our New Technology
Fluidic Analytics develops next generation tools for protein science. Our fundamentally new steady-state laminar flow platform allows proteins to be characterised in solution, under native conditions, quickly, cost-effectively and accurately. This platform brings together–on a single disposable chip–all of the fundamental steps of protein analysis, delivering a “sample in – data out” workflow that is rapid, simple and involves minimal sample preparation. Our technology looks to facilitate studies that distinguish proteins in simple solutions, cell lysates, or even complex mixtures, like blood plasma, by simultaneously and sensitively measuring their key properties such as concentration, size, molecular weight and charge. And because our technology works best in extremely small volumes under physiological conditions, even highly complex protein solutions will be characterised rapidly, in small sample volumes and without extensive sample preparation.
The Fluidic Analytics platform characterises the properties of biomolecules and their interactions using novel approaches enabled by microfluidics. Our platform analyses proteins in solution under native conditions, obviating the need for tagging or labelling proteins before analysis. Measurements are conducted in label-free aqueous conditions at physiological pH, meaning that proteins and their interactions are assayed in their native conformations and without artefacts introduced by bulky tags or surface interactions. Applications of our platform include rapid size and concentration measurements, the detection of folding/unfolding, binding events, oligomerization, or aggregation, and binding constant determination.
The versatility of our platform and its compatibility with physiological conditions and native states give our technology the potential to make it easier, more accessible and more accurate to characterise the key characteristics of proteins that make our biological world function.