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Biochemist’s startup technology will advance wide range of scientific research

A startup founded with technology developed by Oregon State University biochemist Joe Beckman has entered into a co-marketing agreement with a leading manufacturer of analytical scientific instruments, a development that will benefit scientists studying everything from cancer-fighting drugs to methods for detecting explosives.

The OSU spinoff, e-MSion, Inc., which is based in Corvallis, and Agilent Technologies announced their agreement today. The partnership is the result of a multiyear research collaboration among Agilent, e-MSion and Oregon State.

Agilent is a $2.5 billion company headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif. The founder and president of e-MSion is Beckman, distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Oregon State and one of the world’s top researchers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The partnership centers around a new technology for mass spectrometry developed at OSU. Mass spectrometry is a commonly used analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions; the resultant mass spectrum is used to determine the chemical identity or structure of the compound being tested.

“The current fragmentation method, called collision-induced dissociation, has been the standard for more than 50 years,” Beckman said. “As the name implies, the technique involves the collision of molecules in order to break them apart for analysis.”

The e-MSion method is called electron capture dissociation and uses low-energy electrons to gently fragment molecules, allowing scientists to conduct research in new ways and across many diverse fields.

“It changes how we measure molecules, how you study cancer, how you study drugs, the environments people are exposed to and much more,” Beckman said. “There is potential for more accurate analysis of industrial environments, chemical warfare agents and the detection of explosives. This new e-MSion technology in mass spectrometry could provide a wealth of opportunities for new research across many disciplines.”

The technology, trademarked as ExD Cell Technologies, will be available for Agilent mass spectrometers as an upgradeable accessory through installation services provided by e-MSion.

“The data quality is outstanding, showing the true benefit of a high-efficiency, complementary fragmentation,” said Agilent’s Chris Klein, product marketing manager for the company’s mass spectrometry division.

Identification and quantification of biological macromolecules have remained big challenges for the biopharma industry despite major advances in the speed, resolution and accuracy of modern mass spectrometers.

“The adoption of our technology offers an extremely cost-effective solution that will accelerate the ability of investigators to probe disease mechanisms and characterize complex macromolecules in biological samples with increased accuracy and speed, and reduce the rate of false discoveries and misidentifications,” Beckman said.

Brian Wall, OSU’s associate vice president for research, innovation and economic impact, said the university is “excited to see the continued, future impact of this partnership.”

E-MSion in 2015 was a client of the OSU Advantage Accelerator, created in 2013 to help develop high-growth, innovative products and services by taking companies through all phases of the startup process.

“The combination of OSU’s world-class research team, investment through our university venture development fund, the application of Advantage Accelerator programming and dedicated focus over several years has led to this success,” Wall said.

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