Tedious, time-consuming, exasperating: Those are perhaps the three words that researchers use most commonly to describe protein purification.

Proteins, and their little sisters the peptides, are among the most difficult compounds to purify. Enzyme degradation and chemical decomposition conspire to ruin protein samples throughout the steps of purification. Proteases in the original sample and varying salt concentrations can result in degradation or precipitation. Varying pH and temperature may irreversibly alter the protein's conformation. "It really is a hybrid problem of purification and formulation in order to keep the protein functional. You have to be heads-up," says Pete Gagnon, president and scientific director at Tucson, Ariz.-based Validated Biosystems Inc.

Validated Biosystems reverses a common relationship between researcher and custom services: Rather than require the investigator to send material to its facility, the company goes to the research lab and tackles the problem in-house. "We help [researchers] develop processes that ensure the...

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