Nominee: Matthew Blatnik, Pfizer Inc., USA
Nominated By: Xiaogang Han, Pfizer Inc., USA
Supporting Comments: As a young scientist in Pfizer’s Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics and Metabolism Group, Matt Blatnik has demonstrated significant scientific and analytical acumen with consistent impact on biomarker research programs to drive portfolio decisions. He has continuously increased his capabilities and knowledge in state-of-the-art LC–MS techniques and ligand-binding applications to devise bioanalytical strategies for the exploration of mechanism-based biomarker projects in metabolic-, cardiovascular- and neuroscience-related projects. Matt consistently uses his deep biochemical knowledge to inform his laboratory science, which has helped him resolve key translational issues with biomarkers in disease pathways and therapeutic programs. He exhibits a high level of scientific curiosity and routinely challenges scientific dogma, which allows him to develop and test alternative scientific explanations for laboratory observations without bias to the conventional explanations. Conformational structural considerations for the peptide hormone biomarkers, such as Ghrelin and GLP-1, are key examples of this characteristic. Matt has quickly developed the capability to present and publish his work, as demonstrated by a number of peer-reviewed articles and through outreach and influence at national conferences and scientific leadership with the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) as a session chair and interest group coordinator (2011 and 2012). Matt demonstrates his passion for science by routinely coaching junior scientists, driving scientific initiatives through these interactions and participating at a high level with internal scientific presentations, platform assessments and discipline scientific strategies. Taken as a whole, Matt has exhibited a very high level of scientific acumen, curiosity and accomplishments and I fully support his nomination for the Bioanalysis Young Investigator Award.
Bioanalysis Zone asked Matt to highlight one of his favorite published articles and explain his reasoning.
Blatnik M, Soderstrom CI. A practical guide for the stabilization of acylghrelin in human blood collections. Clin. Endocrinol. (Oxf) 74(3), 325–331 (2011).
What were the most difficult challenges encountered in this study? And how were they overcome?
Science is knowledge gained through experimentation. The most challenging aspect of this work was altering the opinions of key leaders in the ghrelin space. We used basic fundamentals to create side-by-side sample comparisons to differentiate between natural acyl ghrelin attenuation and sampling induced error. Convincing key leaders to reexamine their ghrelin assays is still ongoing and challenging.
Which areas of your research did you find the most interesting/enjoyable and why? By comparison, which were the least agreeable?
Upon early method development, I was transferred an ELISA for acyl ghrelin analysis that used an acetylcholinesterese (AChE) coupled to a tracer antibody. A potent sulfonyl halide (AEBSF or PMFS) is required to quench circulating butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) to properly assay acyl ghrelin. The original aprotinin/HCl stability protocol with AChE tracer assay did not quench circulating BChE because if it worked then the AChE tracer would have been inactive in the ELISA. We never reported this finding but it further solidifies our ghrelin stability suggestions.
Since the publication of this manuscript, we still don’t know why fasting acyl ghrelin, although more abundant, dissipates more rapidly than fed acyl ghlrein. Maybe fasting lipid profiles influence cholinesterase activity…
What made you decide to study this particular field of bioanalysis? What makes it so appealing?
I entered the ghrelin space because a research unit I was supporting wanted an LC–MS assay to measure acyl ghrelin. They thought their AChE tracer ELISA was poorly selective when, in reality, their sample collection procedure was not optimal. Once I was involved, ghrelin biology became very interesting. For example, since the development of our new sample collection protocol, we examined total ghrelin and des-acyl ghrelin ELISAs. We have evidence that suggests des-acyl ghrelin is mainly a product of ex vivo metabolism. There is still much to be learned about ghrelins biological influences as we adopt new ways of assaying.
In your opinion, how has the research conducted in this study advanced the field of bioanalysis (i.e., future implications)?
This work reintroduces the concept that sample collection can have a drastic impact on the analytes you are assaying. We only researched one select analyte but this concept can be applied to proteomic or metabolomic studies. Relative amounts of analytes that change in response to disease phenotypes would probably look very different if collected in varying sample collection tubes.
Here is what some of Matt’s friends and colleagues had to say about him.
Sammy Bell, Pfizer Inc., USA
“Matt’s lab/work ethic does not allow him much time out of the lab, but when he is out of the lab, weightlifting and motorcycles are what captivate him. The same passion that drives him in the lab, drives him in the gym to reach that last repetition. Matt’s free time successes can be summed up in the following: when he was driving his motorcycle in a less-desirable part of town, and while at a stop light, nervously awaiting the green light, a car slowly drove up to him, window down, and he hears, ‘dang, Mr Triceps, nice motorcycle’.”
Mark Dysinger, Pfizer Inc., USA
“If Matt were not in a career of bioanalysis, I could genuinely see him as a teacher, at some level. I base this on his desire to share knowledge with others and on his ability to do so in various ways, in order to convey information clearly to different audiences. He is articulate, well schooled in his area of expertise, thinks well on his feet and disarming. These qualities remind me of some of my favorite high school and college teachers. Matt does very well in his current career path, but I feel that he would do equally as well in the education field. Any science class would be lucky to have him as a lead.”
Xiaogang Han, Pfizer Inc., USA
“As an outstanding bioanalyst, Matt’s in-depth knowledge in biochemistry and pharmacology has served him well in understanding the key issue and its contest in our pharmaceutical R&D setting, and allow him to extend his influence in shaping the thought process and forming the hypothesis among the biologists in the project team. Under a truly restricted resource and time-line pressing environment, assessing and defining the real question is a crucial step before the process of assay development. Matt’s extensive experience in multiple technology platforms enables him to process the issues raised from the project team and capture the essence of the problem, and design the most efficient approach to find the answer.”