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Institute, Company Studying Neuro Disease Proteins

Brain circuits


6 March 2018. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Thermo Fisher Scientific are beginning a study of 30 proteins implicated in neurodegenerative diseases to validate related antibodies and reagents for advancing treatments. The collaboration is part of the institute’s Open Science program that makes its findings freely available by the time of publication, and without filing for patent protections.

Montreal Neurological Institute, part of McGill University in Quebec, Canada is a patient care and research center in neurological disorders. Thermo Fisher Scientific, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, provides research technologies and materials for scientists. Much of their product line supports genomic research, analysis, and engineering. The company also provides analytical and management services for research labs.

The Neuro, as the institute is known in Montreal, and Thermo Fisher Scientific expect to produce validated antibodies and reagents that bind to the 30 suspect proteins associated with brain and nervous system disorders. The organizations cite data from World Health Organization that neurological disorders affect some 1 billion people worldwide, including an estimated 50 million people with epilepsy and another 24 million with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These disorders affect all nations, ages, sexes, and education or income levels.

The Neuro identified 30 proteins implicated in Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis  or ALS, severe epilepsy, and other degenerative disorders of the nervous system. Thermo Fisher will produce synthetic antibodies for those proteins with its ABFinity service that uses B-cells, white blood cells from the immune systems of rabbits. The animals are immunized, then their cells are harvested and their genes cloned to produce large quantities in mammalian cell cultures, and purified for the lab.

Researchers at the Neuro will produce cell lines lacking the specific proteins for validating the antibodies and testing reagents for the study of neurodegenerative diseases. Joint Neuro-Thermo Fisher teams will look particularly for binding actions of reagents with their intended targets, with mass spectrometry, an analytical technique that detects the identity and quantity of molecules in proteins. Further tests with proteins will use Western blot analysis to determine the specificity of antibody-to-antigen interaction, while fluorescence will be applied to cell lines lacking the proteins as controls.

Matt Baker, director of business development for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s antibodies division, says in an institute statement, “By working with scientists at the Neuro, our antibodies will be screened in the most relevant models by experts who are leaders in this field, resulting in high-value reagents for the entire research community.”

The agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific is the latest industry partner to join the Neuro’s Open Science program, which the institute says is the first of its kind in the world. The initiative requires sharing all materials, work products, reagents, algorithms, software, and data — no matter the outcome — with the research community at large. These requirements apply to both commercial and academic researchers, with disclosures taking place no later than the date the findings are published.

The institute says its researchers taking part in Open Science will not file patents nor assert data protection rights, other than protecting patient privacy, although no such stipulations are made for partnering organizations. The privacy of human subjects is also protected in databases maintained under the program. Structural Genomics Consortium, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, and drug maker Merck have also taken part in Open Science projects.

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