Wes Zips Through Pharmacodynamic Biomarker Discovery Projects at the University of Glasgow

"I was able to screen various antibodies in a single run within half a day. This had previously taken weeks and months using traditional Western blotting methods."

- Krishna C. Yalla, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow

Krishna C. Yalla, Ph.D.

Nipping cancer in the bud with translational biomarkers

Dr. Krishna Yalla is a postdoctoral research fellow investigating protein pharmacodynamic (PD) biomarkers for cancer drugs in clinical trials at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences. She’s part of the Translational Pharmacology Laboratory (TPL) team that works on translational biomarker projects in support of Cancer Research UK’s (CRUK) Centre for Drug Development (CDD) clinical trial portfolio.

The Institute of Cancer Sciences is a national center of excellence in the fight against cancer, carrying out a program of world-class science directed at understanding the molecular changes that cause cancer. The TPL provides knowledge in translational research and expertise in cancer biomarker science. Using state-of-the-art biomarker technologies, they’re working to translate scientific discoveries into new drugs or diagnostic and prognostic tools that benefit cancer patients.

Week-long wait for Western blot data

It’s pretty safe to say that Krishna and other researchers like her find investigating protein biomarkers using conventional Western blotting pretty challenging. Time-wise it could take her up to a week to complete an assay, even longer if more than one protein was involved. Antibody saturation couldn’t be detected easily which meant her signal quantification took a hit, and she was seeing varying blot transfer efficiency between runs. And these were only a few of the drawbacks! It was taking anywhere from weeks to months to screen antibodies.

Krishna often worked with precious, limited-quantity samples, so running multiple western blots wasn’t possible. The only option for analyzing multiple proteins with blots was to strip and reprobe, and we all know stripping can result in loss of protein from the membrane and cause increases in background signal. Not ideal.

Same-day answers with Wes

Wes™ took the stress out of performing comparative studies between different antibodies or samples for Krishna. She’s not waiting a week or longer to get answers for key research questions anymore either, Wes lets her screen various antibodies in a single run in half a day. She’s also been able to confidently quantify at least two biomarkers within a single assay with as little as 20 ng of sample.

There have been more than a few other bonuses too! Being able to run up to 24 capillaries at a time gave Krishna the option to include a number of key controls in her runs. And the precise quantification along with the quantifiable digital output from Wes made her really happy. Automation of the electrophoresis and blotting processes with Wes has also enormously decreased inter-user variability in results in the lab.

So what about all the technical hurdles that came with working on precious, limited-quantity samples? Over. With Wes, Krishna gets to skip the stripping and reprobing. Because only nanograms of protein are needed for analysis, Wes has also become an invaluable tool when she needs to analyze precious primary samples.

Fast track to curing cancer

Krishna’s now working towards developing protocols for analyzing protein samples collected from various mouse and human sample types such as blood, skin, hair follicles and tumor samples. Simple Western with Wes have given her immense confidence in the data she generates. She now feels that screening antibodies, and developing and optimizing assays for protein detection has never been easier. Plus analyzing primary tissue from various sources is hassle-free, as only a fraction of the sample and reagents used in conventional methods are required.

The TPL recently used Wes to generate a major chunk of data for their CDD CRUK project, and they presented WES data at the 2018 NCRI conference. Wes has become one of the noted assets in the lab and a key feature in their grant and scholarship applications. Timelines for research deliverables to their funders has greatly decreased too. The TPL feels Wes has great potential to enable them to develop interesting collaborations in the near future.

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