BioWorld International Correspondent

Dutch proteomics company Glaucus Proteomics BV has gained access to advanced supercomputing facilities and high-bandwidth networking infrastructure in order to progress its development of tools for high-throughput proteomic analysis and rapid screening of antibody and small-molecule drug candidates for improved specificity.

The Utrecht-based company entered an agreement with SARA Computing and Networking Services of Amsterdam, the national high-performance computing facility of the Netherlands, which is supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. That gives it access to the TERAS facility, one of Europe’s leading scientific computing resources, which consists of a pair of SGI Origin 3800 systems with 1024 processors and a maximum performance of 1 Teraflop.

Glaucus will access these facilities via the GigaPort network, a 1 Gigabit per second research network funded by the Dutch government.

Glaucus founder and Chief Scientific Officer Ian Humphery-Smith told BioWorld International that the company’s expenditure on this project is about $3 million, representing a significant savings.

The company has gained an immediate benefit by using the facility for secure remote storage and backup of its data assets. It now plans to develop pattern recognition software and tools for visualizing complex data sets.

The company’s strategy, Humphery-Smith said, is to add value to drug development, particularly the development of therapeutic antibodies. “Our business model is not focused on biocomputing. We need to do it to realize our business objective.”

One of its aims is to bring greater predictability to drug development by analyzing interactions between drug candidates and all potential targets. “We have never been able to expose the [candidate] drugs to the human proteome,” he said.

The company is developing peptide, protein and antibody microarrays for expression profiling of diseased and healthy tissues. It already has 1,000 human genes, which encode proteins primarily associated with heart disease, cancer and cellular communication, expressed in E. coli. Those are now ready to be packaged on an array. By the year’s end, the company aims to have several thousand human genes available in bacterial, yeast and insect expression systems.

“Once you’ve done it in one vector, it’s a hundred times easier to do it in another system,” Humphery-Smith said.

Last year, Glaucus entered a three-way collaboration with Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., and its European offshoot, Genmab A/S, of Copenhagen, Denmark, based on Medarex’s HuMab human monoclonal antibody development platform. It aims to use the HuMab technology to construct a warehouse of antibodies that recognize the entire proteome and that can be used for signature profiling of human tissues in different physiological states. “You’re building a repertoire of potential human therapeutic agents,” Humphery-Smith said.

Humphery-Smith, who is a co-founder of the Human Proteome Project, also holds a chair in proteomics at the University of Utrecht. He relocated from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, to establish Glaucus in July 2000. The company raised US$8 million in first-round funding. “We are looking to close a Series B round soon,” Humphery-Smith said.

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