Barnett Institute for Chemical & Biological Analysis
AMGEN MASSACHUSETTS AND THE BARNETT INSTITUTE OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS ANNOUNCE SCHOLAR AWARD
Amgen and The Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University announced the Wolfgang Goetzinger-Amgen Memorial Scholar Award. The award is in memory of Amgen’s well-respected and esteemed colleague, Wolfgang Goetzinger, an analytical chemist at Amgen’s Cambridge R&D facility and former post-doctoral fellow in the Barnett Institute at Northeastern University. Goetzinger died in September 2015 after a battle with cancer. He was 51 years old.
The Wolfgang Goetzinger-Amgen Memorial Scholar Award in Life Science Analysis is a $50,000 gift over the next five years that will provide students—both graduate and undergraduate—with $5,000 annually to fund an undergraduate summer research co-op and to help offset the cost of travel, education, professional development or research expenses for a graduate student. “Requirements included a competitive process where students need to have an interest or research work (graduate level award) in biotechnology and/or life science analysis, as well as present their research topic to Amgen Massachusetts leadership upon completion.
“It was important for us to honor Wolfgang as he left such a lasting impression on everyone who had the pleasure of interacting with him,” explained Sam Guhan, Vice President, Process Development. “Establishing the Wolfgang Goetzinger-Amgen Memorial Scholar award scholar was our collective approach in doing so for the next generation of scientists who share his passion for science and life. This award is one way for us to remember him and his inspirational contributions as a scientist, colleague, teacher and friend.”
“This award in Wolfgang Goetzinger’s name is especially meaningful to me as Wolfgang was a post doc in my lab during the mid 1990s,” said Dr. Barry Karger, former Director of the Barnett Institute. “He was an excellent analytical chemist, and it is wonderful that Amgen is remembering him in this way.”
The 2016 Wolfgang Goetzinger-Amgen Memorial Scholar award recipients are Northeastern University sophomore student Tyler Kolfrat and graduate student Ting Huang. The recipients were recognized at a reception held at Amgen on March 7, 2016, along with Dr. Goetzinger’s Amgen colleagues, Barnett Institute peers, and his surviving wife, Joyce Roessler.
Kolfrat will spend the summer in Professor John Engen’s lab as a funded co-op studying histone methyltransferases, which are major targets when developing drugs for the cancer causing gene, oncogene.
Professor Shashi Murthy, Faculty Fellow at the Institute, has been elected a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. AIMBE Fellows represent the top 2% of the medical and biological engineering community and are elected via a rigorous process. The AIMBE College of Fellows is a group of around 1,500 individuals who have distinguished themselves through their contributions in research, industrial practice and/or education in medical and biological engineering. Congratulations to Shashi on receiving this honor.
A New Era in Academic-Industrial Interaction
by Jeff Cutler
The prevailing view of research science is that professors and laboratory staff work on obscure challenges for which a lifetime might not be enough time to solve. Further, there are some who also feel academic scientists focus too much on projects that might only have limited application in the ‘real’ world. If you’re in either camp, you haven’t met Dr. Barry Karger, a Distinguished Professor and James L. Waters Chair in Analytical Chemistry at Northeastern’s College of Science, and the former Director of the Barnett Institute.
For Karger, science and research needs to be directed toward solutions that solve problems.“As scientists at the Barnett Institute, we have a strong focus on trying to solve important problems,” said Karger.
Since his arrival at Northeastern in 1963, Karger has honed this focus to attack real, significant problems. In fact, his career as a bioanalytical chemist has allowed him the ability to have impact in biotechnology, human genome science and other areas. In recognition of his success, he has received many national and international awards.
“When I began in the 1960s, the purer you were in research, the more prestigious you were,” said Karger. “If you worked on applications – even to solve problems – that was looked at as less prestigious.”
That changed in the decades following his start as a professor. While the interaction between academia and industry was quite limited at first, companies found that collaboration with skilled scientists could help them develop new technologies, products, medicines, and save lives.
It was a distinction between basic research versus application of a solution. Prestige these days is still available in the pure research realm, but there is a lot more recognition and reward for those who solve problems and create startups and companies to commercialize scientific research.
“There needs to be a balance,” said Karger. “But one sees how things have changed. The relationship between scientists in universities and industry is only growing. I believe it’s far different now from when I began at Northeastern, and the ties will only continue to strengthen between academia and industry.”
Examples of this new era include the relationships many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have with university researchers. Industry is changing, and the field of chemistry is more important than ever. Karger says the fields within each specialty are diffuse and that means that scientific knowledge has to span across different fields of study.
What he’s indicating is that collaborating with specialists in different scientific and business fields is a requirement instead of a luxury. It’s something he’s tried to foster his entire career because he saw the value of different approaches, training and perspectives.
“I have collaborations with engineers, medical professionals (Dana Farber, MGH), the biotech industry, instrument companies and more,” said Karger. “One can’t be pigeonholed. You need to be broad. It’s a given that you need to be an expert in your field, but you also need to understand the big picture.”
The key ingredient he points to is understanding problems from everyone’s point of view. Also, maintaining a focus on outcome and impact rather than simply “impact factor” is critically important.
As a parallel, Karger has had great impact on the students and partners he’s worked with over the years. He says the Institute has seen more than 400 PhD, post- doctoral, and staff scientists emerge through its doors, and one of his happiest moments is seeing these alumni succeed.
“One of the things that is unique about being a professor is mentoring young people,” said Karger. “At the Institute, we have a roster of alumni who have gone on to major success both academically and in industry, many with biotechnology companies.”
But it’s not without its challenges. Karger likens the process to any learning – mentoring and watching people grow is key.
“When we get new students, they are like wild horses. To see them change over their career at Northeastern, and then after graduating, see them in the field,” said Karger. “This is one of the great joys of being a professor.”
He credits the development of Northeastern as a world-class institution for making this possible. With aggressive hiring in the 2000s, Northeastern positioned itself in a superior state for research and teaching. And today, he says, it’s a wonderful collection of excellent faculty and facilities. Joint appointments between colleges at Northeastern only strengthens the collaborative spirit and helps provide professors with insight into other specialties.
“It’s an interdisciplinary and collaborative mentality that succeeds,” said Karger.
Speaking of research with impact, Karger is currently working closely with biotechnology companies to develop tools to help analyze the complex protein drug products that are made from living organisms. His work right now also includes the ability to study very limited amounts of clinical samples and still find results in the understanding of diseases such as cancer. Diagnostic markers and drug targets will be the outcome of his work.
This work underscores his belief that scientific research is having an impact. The community at Northeastern – and at the companies with which he’s working – are exciting to be involved with, and his team is hardly ever bored. Essentially, more than half a century after he started, Karger believes his field continues to be valuable, and students can find a rich future in it.
“In many jobs, people are in a cubby hole, and they look forward to retire because they are bored,” said Karger. “I’m not going to say there aren’t aggravations being a profesor. But at the same time there’s a lot of satisfaction, and it’s really interesting. With the research that’s going on now at Northeastern, it’s just getting more exciting.”
The interaction and the results speak for themselves. Dr. Barry Karger is still paving the way for scientific exploration and collaboration on campus and within the industrial community.
Chemistry professor, Bradstreet Chair consults FDA committees
by Matthew Palvlovich, Post-Doctoral Associate, Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
CDER advisory committees provide the FDA with independent expert advice on scientific, technical, and policy matters in more than 50 different areas, ranging from antimicrobial drugs to gene therapies to dental products, and each committee typically meets two to four times a year. Advisory committee consultants may be asked to serve on a number of different committees depending on their expertise.
Dr. Hancock, an expert in protein drugs, says he anticipates advising on analytical, manufacturing, formation, and quality control issues. His career in analytical biotechnology has involved working with and for the FDA in the past: in 1982, he presented research at an FDA meeting supporting the approval of synthetic insulin as a therapy for diabetes, which led to the agency accepting novel bioanalytical assays as evidence in submissions for new protein drugs. Shortly afterwards, he joined the FDA as a visiting scientist, establishing a HPLC assay for the activity of insulin products.
As an advisory committee consultant, Dr. Hancock, along with other advisors, may be asked to provide advice on scientific and technical issues concerning the safety and effectiveness of drug products for use in the treatment of a broad spectrum of human diseases, and as required, the quality characteristics which such drugs purport or are represented to have, and as required, any other product for which the Food and Drug Administration has regulatory responsibility, and make appropriate recommendations to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs. Advisory committees’ recommendations are not binding but are influential.
Continuing his work at the intersection of academia, industry, and regulatory policy, Dr. Hancock’s research group has developed new analytical approaches to characterize a number of protein drugs, including human growth hormone, gamma-interferon, tissue plasminogen activator and antibodies. In these studies his group has also pioneered the application of “hyphenated” chromatography-mass spectrometry for product characterization and to facilitate regulatory approval.
Dr. Hancock has participated in other FDA sponsored meetings such as the “Well Characterized Biotechnology Product” and also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on “The Law of Biologic Medicine,” while continuing to translate biotechnology from the laboratory to industrial practice, eventually resulting in his invitation to join the FDA’s group of advisory committee consultants.
Through his service with the advisory committees, Dr. Hancock will be able to use his expertise to advise the FDA on the safety and effectiveness of new protein drugs and shape the future development of novel therapeutics.
Capturing and Profiling Rare Cells
by Joshua Timmons, Biology, 2017
Northeastern University researchers have extensively profiled the proteins of rare cells in blood, a feat that was previously impossible. By successfully isolating and characterizing rare cells that make up just 0.001 percent or less of the total cells present in blood, Northeastern’s Barry Karger, Alexander Ivanov, and Shashi Murthy have built a foundation for proteomics-based personalized medicine. Protein profiling of disease is notoriously difficult. Requiring millions of cells, and yielding insufficient data, existing methods are inefficient and unsuitable for most clinical applications where the sample amount is typically limited. With metastatic cancer, patients need to undergo extensive tumor biopsies for clinicians to understand the biology of their disease. In their paper–titled Proteomic Profiling of Rare Cells in Whole Blood–published in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, Northeastern researchers demonstrated proof-of-concept for a less invasive technology.
“Our advance was in how you get the cells and then how you process them,” said Karger, the James L. Waters Chair in Analytical Chemistry at Northeastern and founding director of the Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis.
“Conventional techniques typically require hundreds of thousands or millions of cells. Here we’re able to analyze less than a thousand.” Their team was able to identify and quantify over 4,000 proteins from as little as 100 cells out of 1000 cells isolated from whole blood.
Their giant leap forward was the product of innovation at each step of a complex process, where individual cells are singled out from millions and then thoroughly characterized by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, a tool that is used for protein identification and quantitation. “We needed advances in isolation techniques, sample preparation, separation, mass spectrometer instrumentation, and data analysis,” as Research Associate Professor Ivanov explained it, “we needed the whole integrated analytical platform.” The attention to detail paid off as their integrated approach was 5 to 10 fold better than any existing technique. Looking forward, the researchers expect to see their integrated approach reach both the clinical and academic laboratories. The ability to capture and characterize rare circulating tumor cells, specific stem cells or other target cell subpopulations in physiological fluids and microbiopsies represents a method for understanding patient disease. “If we can identify the cells, we know if the person is going into remission and how the drug is working,” said Karger. In academic settings the platform could facilitate deeper comprehension of fundamental biology. Perhaps, one day, at the level of single cells. According to Ivanov, “single cell proteomics is possible, and it can be based on this platform.”
The platform is already being explored at the Broad Institute in the field of immunology. There is also interest from industry, with several companies considering licensing and implementing the specific parts of the technology platform. Yet, having already advanced cell profiling to an unmatched depth, the researchers are continuing to push forward, identifying more proteins with fewer cells.
The 16th Annual Francine and Michael Saferstein Memorial Lectures in Forensic Science
Honored guest speaker Dr. Jeff Salyards, (c) along with Dr. Barry L. Karger, (Emeritus) of the Barnett Institute, Richard Saferstein, Adam Hall, Director of Mass Spectrometry facility and Murray Gibson, Dean of the College of Science.