As a biochemist, I have always been interested in understanding the functional role of enzymes. For much of my career, I have characterized enzymes, particularly proteases that have been isolated from biological samples. However, I was determined to develop an assay that could detect and characterize proteases without the need to isolate them. The multiplex substrate profiling by mass spectrometry (MSP-MS) assay can directly characterize the substrate specificity of multiple proteases in a biological sample. Recently, this assay has been used to profile proteases in complex samples such as pancreatic cyst fluid, synovial fluid and neutrophil extracts. These applications have led me to specializing in bioanalysis.
Are there any particular scientists you have worked with who have had an impact on the path your research has taken?
There are two scientists that have had a big role to play in my research path. Prof. Charles Craik at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has been an expert in protease biochemistry for more than 30 years and I have been very fortunate to work with him for the past 8 years. He has allowed me to work on diverse projects and therefore I have a well rounded knowledge about the role of proteases in many diseases. This has greatly helped me in developing an assay that has broad applications. Giselle Knudsen is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at UCSF and an expert in mass spectrometry. Giselle has been my collaborator for 4 years and played a central role in the development of the MSP-MS assay. She encourages me to push the boundaries of mass spectrometry to continuously improve the MSP-MS assay.
How did you come to be nominated for the award?
My supervisor Prof. Charles Craik nominated me for the award after he had seen the call for nominations on Bioanalysis Zone. At the time, we had just completed a successful collaboration with Bayer Healthcare to identify and characterize the proteases that are embedded in Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs). These NETs are likely to play a role in many human diseases such as cystic fibrosis and asthma. Based on the results from this study, Charles felt that my work was worthy of being nominated for a Young Investigator award, particularly in the field of bioanalysis.
How does it feel to be the 2013 Bioanalysis Young Investigator?
I am very honored to be the 2013 Bioanalysis Young Investigator as I am reasonably new to this field. I have been using bioanalytical techniques such as HPLC and ELISA for many years but until recently have not applied them to complex biological samples. However, in the past two years I have been using LC–MS/MS to detect proteolytic activity in biological samples and therefore I can now consider myself a bioanalytical scientist.
Over the next few years, what will be the focus of your work?
I intend to use the MSP-MS assay to detect and characterize the proteolytic activity in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis and acute lung injury. The aim of these studies will be to determine the enzymes responsible for the excessive proteolytic activity that is associated with each of these diseases.
Click here to view Anthony’s profile for the Young Investigator Award.