The West Virginia University Research Corp. and Protea Biosciences Inc.a new, Morgantown-based biotechnology companyrecently signed an agreement to develop and commercialize discoveries made in WVU s Core Proteomics Laboratory, officials announced today (Nov. 14).

Proteomics, a new area of biotechnology research, is an advanced technology that rapidly identifies proteins in human cellsestimated to number from 500,000 to 1 millionproviding new potential targets for drug development in cancer and other human disease.

The laboratory, based at the WVU Health Sciences Center and headed by Dr. Dan Flynn, associate director of the Basic Research Program at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, will include instrumentation such as mass spectrometry and two-dimensional gel electrophoresis.

The initial disease focus is cancer, Dr. Flynn said, and the unit will be collaborating and supporting the work of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

“It is hoped that proteomics will allow us to customize cancer treatment toward an individual by permitting physicians to design treatment strategies that are specific to each individual cancer patient,”Dr. Flynn said.

John Weete, president of the WVURC , said he is pleased with the historic agreement.”Not only does it provide for substantial investment by the company for WVU -based biomedical research, but it also works to build the first Morgantown-based biotechnology company, assuring that the fruits of our investments will benefit our local economy and laying the foundation for the creation of new, high-value jobs in our community,”he said.

Stephen Turner, chairman& CEO of Protea Biosciences, said WVU has done”an extraordinary job”building a strong health sciences research base.”Their proteomics technology program fits well with our company’s mission. In addition, we believe Morgantown is an excellent location for our company, combining a high-quality of living with a growing scientific community. We are proud to be a part of Morgantown’s future.”

Turner said the company’s mission is to build a leading proteomics business by advancing WVU ’s microfluidics and cell signaling technology and applying it to the discovery of novel protein targets to be used in the development of new pharmaceuticals and improved ways to manage disease. Already, WVU researchers have identified a cellular protein signaling target known as AFAP -110 that helps control the ability of cells to change shape, inhibiting their growth and the spread of the cancerous cells.

This is only the first of a growing number of potential drug targets that can be discovered at the new proteomics laboratory, Turner noted.

The company will start with a staff of about 12, Turner said, but hopes to create about 120 jobs in a new biotechnology incubator by the end of the third year.

Other WVU researchers involved in the project are Aaron Timperman, PhD; Barbara Ducatman, MD; and John Barnett, PhD.