NEP Explores the Exosome

Drug Discovery News


April 2013 


By: Lloyd Dunlap 


GARDNER, Mass. - New England Peptide Inc, (NEP) has acquired the worldwide exclusive rights for Vn96 and a portfolio of other peptide compounds from the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Under the terms of the licensing agreement, NEP will use the peptides for the research-grade enrichment of microparticles, microvesicles and exosomes. NEP plans to release a research-grade affinity enrichment kit within the next quarter. 


"Our kit can specifically isolate exosomes in less than an hour on your benchtop," says company president and CEO Sam Massoni. "Studying the profile of the biomarkers found within is the next stage in disease research, and presents a great opportunity to achieve breakthroughs in personalized medicine."


Exosomes have become one of the fastest growing areas of disease research in recent years, Massoni states.


"The main issue now impeding scientists is one of accessibility, as exosomes have proven to be notoriously difficult to obtain from biological samples," he notes.


The first generation of affinity reagents on the market were PEG-based and relied on general lipid-binding properties for capture, Massoni explains.


"Various methods for their purification or capture (notably ultracentrifugation or lipid binding) have previously been developed, but these methods may be limited by the availability of equipment and/or questions regarding the specificity or thoroughness of captured material," he observes. "Our reagents are designed to bind specific proteins known to exist on the surface of exosomes and microvesicles. Vn96 attaches to circulating exosomes by binding surface heat shock proteins. With a simple mixture the reagents quickly and efficiently pellet the exosomes out of the variety of biological samples (urine, serum, saliva, cell-derived media, etc.). One can then either filter out pellet (exosomes) or perform a routine centrifuge step and draw off supernatant. We believe the Vn96, coupled with advancing genomic and proteomic biomarker research, will lead to a promising array of diagnostic applications for disease detection."


NEP's goal is "for it to be the first step of a simple blood test that could provide early detection of hundreds of specific diseases, each with its own protein or nucleic acid profile, all performed as part of a routine physical in the doctor's office," says Massoni.


"A lot of research remains to be conducted, however, to be able to characterize those biomarkers into a specific profile of disease. There are also multiple methods of possible sample collection, the results of which need to be aligned with one another in order to make certain of the trustworthiness of any one samples type."


According to Dr. Rodney Ouellett, president and scientific director of ACRI, "You can think of microvesicles as a facsimile of a diseased cell that contains the same altered genes and proteins that you would find in a sample obtained from a surgical biopsy. Microvesicles circulate in blood or urine, so important diagnostic or prognostic information can be collected simply and used for either research or clinical analysis."


"This agreement is further evidence of New England Peptide's commitment to collaborate with its customers to develop and manufacture important research tools," Massoni states.


NEP plans to manufacture the research-grade kit in its current Massachusetts facility. Massoni notes that ACRI and NEP are actively seeking collaborators for the clinical use of Vn96.


The ACRI is a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 and housed at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick. The Centre focuses on the genetic origins of cancer and is pursuing three main areas of development: early screening; enhanced diagnosis and targeted treatment.


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"NEP provides antibodies that work (when all others fail) and has advised on peptides that have taken my research to new levels. There is nothing like working with NEP in terms of the comfort and assurance of attaining quality results. They are the best!"
Steven G. PhD - NX PharmaGen