Ear­lier this week, North­eastern University’s Bar­nett Insti­tute of Chem­ical and Bio­log­ical Analysis for­mally announced a tech­nology alliance part­ner­ship with Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific, a multibillion-​​dollar ana­lyt­ical instru­men­ta­tion and product com­pany, based in San Jose, Calif., with cor­po­rate offices in Waltham, MA.

Researchers noted that mass-​​spectrometry — an ana­lyt­ical tech­nique that deter­mines mol­e­c­ular masses of com­pounds in a sample — is on the verge of a rev­o­lu­tion. The new instru­men­ta­tion being devel­oped at orga­ni­za­tions like Thermo Fisher will change the face of life-​​sciences research, they said. With this alliance, North­eastern sci­en­tists will play a crit­ical role in the direc­tion of this emerging field.

The devel­op­ments reflect a broader shift in the gen­eral nature of research col­lab­o­ra­tion, said Barry Karger, director of the insti­tute, which is inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized as a pre­mier center for research and advanced training in ana­lyt­ical chem­istry for bio­med­ical applications.

The cur­rent and future trend, said Karger, resem­bles a tri­angle between gov­ern­ment researchers, uni­ver­si­ties, and industry. “We think this is crit­ical, because nobody has all the answers,” he con­tinued, noting that acad­emia must work with the med­ical com­mu­nity to iden­tify prob­lems that need solving and with industry to build advanced technologies.

The alliance will focus on three research areas, including com­plex pro­tein char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, devel­oping methods for ana­lyzing trace amounts of bio­markers in pro­teomic sam­ples, and devel­oping new methods for ana­lyzing biosim­ilar drugs.

Researchers from the Bar­nett Insti­tute and Thermo Fisher, as well as mem­bers of the local biotech­nology and aca­d­emic com­mu­ni­ties, gath­ered for the announce­ment, a dis­cus­sion of the partnership’s expected impact, and a tour of the Bar­nett lab­o­ra­tory, where state-​​of-​​the-​​art instru­men­ta­tion is avail­able to advance life-​​science research.

Daniel Dai, second from right, a research assis­tant pro­fessor at the Bar­nett Insti­tute, gives a tour of the facility. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

I’d like to say a word of thanks not only for this ded­i­ca­tion but for many years of col­lab­o­ra­tion with our friends,” said Karger. “It cer­tainly has made a great dif­fer­ence in the research in my lab­o­ra­tory and others in the Bar­nett Institute.”

During the event, Karger and Thermo Fisher vice pres­i­dent and chief tech­nology officer Ian Jar­dine pre­sented high­lights of their insti­tu­tions’ respec­tive research activ­i­ties over the last sev­eral years, as well as expec­ta­tions for future inves­ti­ga­tions. “We’re only at the begin­ning of this journey in the appli­ca­tion of mass spec­trom­etry to life sci­ences,” said Jardine.

The part­ner­ship fol­lows on the heels of a long-​​standing rela­tion­ship between the two insti­tu­tions: In 1998, in honor of the Bar­nett Institute’s 25th anniver­sary, North­eastern alumnus and Thermo’s then-​​vice pres­i­dent John Hat­sopolous endowed a young scholars pro­gram aimed at estab­lishing the careers of up-​​and-​​coming ana­lyt­ical chemists.

Building on rela­tion­ships with instru­ment and biotech com­pa­nies is a way not only to pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for coop and training, but also to bring to us the state-​​of-​​the-​​art tech­nology that allows us to do the most exciting sci­ence,” said Murray Gibson, dean of the Col­lege of Sci­ence, which is home to the Bar­nett Insti­tute. The Thermo Fisher alliance, he said, is a won­derful example of such a relationship.

The company’s mis­sion to “make the world healthier, cleaner and safer” is deeply aligned with that of North­eastern, where research is use-​​inspired and focused on solving global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sustainability.

This is a tremen­dous part­ner­ship, and we’re hon­ored to be working closely with a leading insti­tute like North­eastern,” said Dan Shine, pres­i­dent of the chro­matog­raphy and mass-​​spectrometry divi­sion at Thermo Fisher, which also has part­ner­ships with New York Uni­ver­sity, Princeton Uni­ver­sity, and the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin.

These rela­tion­ships are really impor­tant to helping us under­stand the require­ments of leading aca­d­e­mics and helping us improve the instru­men­ta­tion we make, improve our soft­ware, and improve our appli­ca­tions knowl­edge,” Shine said. The Bar­nett Insti­tute of Chem­ical and Bio­log­ical Analysis has part­nered with Thermo Fisher Sci­en­tific to enable life-​​science appli­ca­tions with sophis­ti­cated instrumentation.